Sunday, 7 August 2016
Batman: The Killing Joke
The Killing Joke is an animated feature adapted from the graphic novel of the same name. The graphic novel is considered one of the greatest of all time and the definitive Joker story. It's easily my favourite and the reason why Joker is my favourite character of all fiction.
It revolves around the Joker's most personal scheme yet, as he attempts to drive Commission Gordon insane in the same way that drove him to become the Clown Prince of Crime; just one bad day.
This also leads to some flashback sequences showing what appears to be the Joker's origin story and the bad day that caused him to become a homicidal maniac.
This adaption has been highly anticipated for years, so much so that it was shown a couple of weeks ago at select theatres. I was lucky enough to get to see it and I initially enjoyed the majority of it. Now after buying it on Blu-Ray, my opinion has dropped slightly.
I have to say that I do really enjoy the actual Killing Joker portion, which I'll move onto soon, but it's so unfortunate that we have to wade through a half hour of mediocrity to even get to that point.
To lengthen the runtime of the feature, the first half hour features a story mainly focusing on Batgirl. I would have been totally fine with this but they could have done so much better than this. I understand it is supposed to make us feel more sympathetic towards Batgirl/Barbara Gordon when we get to the events of the Killing Joke novel.
The main problem is that this story section doesn't even tie in to the main event of Killing Joke and just seems more like a bonus episode of a Batman cartoon before the main feature starts. The story revolves around Batgirl hunting down the ridiculously named Paris Franz, as he taunts and stalks her in a perverted way.
He's just not threatening and just exists to objective Batgirl which the movie should have avoided doing. It feels like a slog to get through and I skipped right by it as soon as I got the blu-ray. It also features the maligned 'sex-scene' between Batgirl and Batman which had my screening in hysterics. It just comes out of nowhere and seems so unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.
Once that's finally over we get to the real reason to watch this; the actual adaptation of The Killing Joke. Mark Hamill returns in quite possibly his last time playing Joker and absolutely steals the movie. He was always the definitive Joker to me and he gives us one his better performances here. This includes his broadway musical number of 'I Go Looney' which I'll admit was a fantastic choice by the writers. It contrasts so well with the psychological horror going on at the same time which I won't spoil here.
The animation was a bit choppy and a bit more money could have been put into it. It's not too bad but it is noticeable at times. Batman especially looks a little off at first. At least we also have who I consider to be the definitive voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, returning to the role. Kevin and Mark working together again for perhaps the final time is definitely the highlight of the feature for me.
The actual Killing Joke sections are adapted almost straight from the graphic novel along with most of the dialogue and it does work really well. There are a few changes here and there but I'd say they were necessary. The ending may be my favourite part of the entire thing, but again I won't spoil that here.
Overall this feels like a very mixed bag of a movie. If it was just the 45 minutes of Killing Joke it would be an easy A- rating from me. The unfortunate part is the first half hour that really drags proceedings and had so much potential to be something better. If you are going to buy this movie I would recommend just skipping to the 30 minute mark. It's what I'll be doing in future. Still I'd say it's worth picking up for Batman and Joker fans, and get your hands on the limited edition box set I found on Amazon if you can. It comes with a cute little Joker figurine at no extra cost. There is a good movie in here. You just have to swim through crap to get to it.
Saturday, 6 August 2016
Just over one year ago at Comic-Con, a trailer for a movie was leaked that had everyone talking. That trailer was for Suicide Squad and it looked fantastic. It was pretty grim and a definite contrast from future trailers that tried to give it a sense of fun with music from Queen and Sweet.
I was just about as excited as I was for the Force Awakens release. Finally I was getting another film with my favourite character from all fiction, The Joker, and now we finally had the long awaited big screen debut of Harley Quinn.
So now the movie has been released worldwide and there has been some mixed critical and fan opinion, mostly leaning towards the negative side. I don't think the movie deserves as much of critical panning as it did receive (worse than Fant4stic and Green Lantern, are you freaking serious) but at the same time I don't think it deserves a huge amount of praise it has been receiving from certain outlets and fanboys. I know I myself would count as a fanboy but I wouldn't go as far as to start a petition to close a review site because it gave a movie I liked bad reviews.
Anyway as someone who has grown up with a few of these characters and has read many of their stories through the comic books (including the New 52 Suicide Squad issues which are awesome) I thought I'd throw my two cents in.
Don't worry I won't spoil anything.
I do have to admit that the first twenty minutes of the film are a ton of fun, and I did enjoy the way they introduced most of the squad members. We learn about these characters through Viola Davis's great performance as Amanda Waller, the director who brings the squad together. Through some flashback scenes we get a little background for the bad guys, with most of the attention being paid to Harley Quinn and Deadshot.
My favourite scene from the movie is around this point. It doesn't last very long and it's the one we see at the end of the trailer with Batman chasing down Joker and Harley through the streets of Gotham. It totally reminded me of the amazing Batman animated series and I'd love to see more of just this; Batman taking on The Joker. Hopefully we'll see some of this in the Batman solo movie in a couple of years time.
The best thing about the movie has to be the squad itself, made up of a crew of individually interesting characters. The only problem I have is that we only seem to focus on the bigger names and characters like Katana, Killer Croc, and Captain Boomering just feeling like filler to bulk up the team. I'd have loved more than a two sentence explanation for their backstories and why we should care about them.
The main team members do knock it out of the park though. El Diablo worked well as a character who seemed to be living with some major regrets and a dark past. Deadshot was played well by Will Smith and this is the first time I've enjoyed him in a role in a long time. He plays it with the usual Smith swagger and succeeds in putting a bit of humanity in the hitman.
Margot Robbie totally steals the show as Harley Quinn and proved that she was the perfect choice for the role. Any fan of the character can definitely put their mind to rest as she was just as captivating as the Harley we all know and love from the animated series and comics. I've heard there may be a solo movie in the works for her and I would love to see this.
And that brings us down to the one everyone was waiting for. Jared Leto as The Joker. How was he? Well I for one thought he knocked it out of the park. I always enjoy the different interpretations of Joker and this one was done brilliantly. Just as quickly as he took some of the goofiness of Mark Hamill's Joker he could quickly turn as violent and terrifying as Heath Ledger's. This is the Joker to me. A mix of a clown and psychopathic serial killer.
This also brings me to one of my major disappointments of the film. The last few trailers featured quite a bit of Leto's Joker but he's in the movie for what feels like less than ten minutes. Most other reviews say he has around 25 minutes of screen time, but I have no idea of what movie they were watching because it definitely wasn't anywhere near that. What makes it even worse is that he was pointless and didn't actually need to be here which does piss me off a bit. If he wasn't in this, nothing would have changed in the story.
This also brings me to the main villain of the plot that I won't reveal as it's apparently a spoiler, but they were awful. Barely any build, a flimsy excuse for what they're doing and just not threatening at all. I hate to bring the comparison to the awful Fant4stic, but the finale did feel a lot like that one, and the villain just as bland.
I know I've not really mentioned much about the plot, but honestly that's because there isn't much of one. It's basically just getting the squad together and then getting from point A to point B and beat the baddies for the entire runtime.
I would say overall that the first half is good but it does take a bit of a nose dive as it goes on towards the forgettable final act. It feels like it's trying to be The Avengers but without any previous efforts towards building the characters or the stakes. It is a bit better than Batman vs Superman, but honestly not by much. DC still have a long way to go until they can figure out how to make great movies that don't feature Christopher Nolan. At least we know any future movie featuring Joker and Harley will be worth watching out for. It's not as bad as most critics are saying and a lot of people will probably love this. In my opinion, it's only average.
Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Superman: The Movie Review
As a warning, there will be spoilers ahead.
Superman is a comic book movie directed by Richard Donner, whose last director's credit came from The Omen two years earlier. Seems like a strange choice after that disturbing flick, but it seemed to actually work.
The film stars Christopher Reeve as Kal-El/Clark Kent, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, and Marlon Brando as Jor-El.
The story follows Kal-El, who sent to Earth to save him from his dying planet of Krypton. Due to his origins, he has super-strength, x-ray vision, the ability to fly and ....... the ability to turn back time I guess, along with some other powers.
Kal-El, now known as Superman, takes to the city of Metropolis to help those in danger, and to take down the evil Lex Luthor, who plans to destroy part of California so that his land will be worth millions of dollars.
The first third of the movie takes place in the opening credits because Holy God they seem to go on forever. It would have been ok if there was a bit more going on in the background, but it's just the same credits with the same effect over and over.
Thankfully they're not too unbearable as we do have the legendary John William's excellent score in the background, even if the main theme does sound suspiciously similar to the main theme of Star Wars a year earlier.
So once the credits are finished we arrive at the planet Krypton, with Jor-El sentencing General Zod and his crew to exile which will set up the next movie nicely.
Jor-El is trying to convince the council that the planet will be destroyed sometime soon. No one listens to him and so he sends his son Kal-El to Earth to begin our story.
I do wish that we had spent some more time in Krypton, as the sets were fantastic, and the models used for the exterior of the city looked very realistic.
Marlon Brando is not in the movie for long, but gives a very memorable performance as Clark's father, especially in his speech to his son right before he sends him to Earth, as he knows he will ever see him again. Well until he shows up in a strange hologram later on.
I do think that Clark's early years are skipped over way too quickly as we only see him for a couple of minutes as an infant (in which, by the way, Martha Kent seems way too quick to go for the kidnapping route and pretend that he's an orphan), and then barely get to see his life on the farm, which only seems to be there for the death scene of Pa Kent.
Straight after that we see Clark grown up yet again and now employed by the Daily Planet, where he meets reporter Lois Lane for the first time.
I did enjoy the portrayal of Lois as she was pretty badass and it didn't feel like she was there just to be a love interest for Superman. Her on-screen banter and chemistry with Superman made for some good dialogue and funny moments.
Speaking of him, I know this has probably been said a million times by now, but Christopher Reeve was the absolute perfect choice to play Superman, and I honestly can't see anyone playing the role any better. Sorry Henry Cavill. It's just flawless the way he can act like the socially awkward Clark Kent and immediately go to the calm, strong-willed Superman.
I also did enjoy Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor as he did make him feel like a diabolical genius at times. I do feel that the character of Luthor was a bit inconsistent though. He starts off well enough looking like a cold, emotionless killer while sending an innocent cop to his death, but the character does feel a little too comical at times. I know this is a comic book movie, but there are some scenes towards the end where he disguises himself to change the co-ordinates of some missiles, and it just feels like a segment from a Looney Tunes episode. Still, the rest of the time he is an excellent villain.
As for the story, there's not too much going on, but it's exactly what you want from this kind of film as we see Superman performing all the heroic acts we want to see such as saving a plane from crashing, stopping a train from spinning off the tracks, and beating up some bank robbers.
The first time we see Superman is the iconic helicopter scene, in which he saves Lois from falling to her death. The scene is excellent and still looks great to this day. Plus it does give the classic line from Lois of "You've got me? Who's got you?!"
The best scene in the movie (in my opinion) comes from Lois's interview with Superman. This scene does a great job of showing us some of Superman's powers, some information about his origins, and the start of his romance with Lois. The best part comes when Superman offers to fly Lois around Metropolis in a charming moment. That is until he somehow drops her in mid-air, but at least he saved her in time.
Spoiler Alert for the ending.
I thought I couldn't fault anything in the movie until we came to the climax. I'd heard it was bad, but I didn't expect it to be as bad as it was. After one of Luthor's missiles causes an earthquake, Superman finds Lois dead in her car after suffocation. It's an emotional moment and very dark. You could just see Superman starting to into a rage of anger, and it does humanise him quite a bit. Then he flies into space and somehow manages to make the Earth spin backwards which also manages to turn back time to stop the last missile from hitting, which in turn save Lois's life. And that's basically it. He also finds the time to capture Luthor and hands him over to the authorities.
Again this has been talked about many times before, but it just left a sour taste in my mouth and just felt like a very lazy, happily ever after ending.
Overall this is an excellent superhero/ comic book movie. Like I said earlier, I can't really fault anything outside of the ludicrous ending, and I would have liked to have seen more of Clark's early years getting used to his powers, but the movie was already running at two and half hours so I can understand why it may have been cut. Also those 2.5 hours absolutely blew by as the movie was a joy to watch.
Easily one of the better superhero movies we've ever had.
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
Some minor spoilers ahead. Batman (1989) is, of course, a superhero movie directed by the always gothic Tim Burton. The film stars Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, Jack Nicholson as The Joker, and Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale. There are a few supporting roles but no one really stands out like the main cast members. Except maybe for Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, mostly because it's fascinating to think of what could have been if he'd been given the chance to play Two-Face.
In this universe, Batman is still only a legend in the city of Gotham and still in the early years of vigilantism. The police are denying his existence to the general public, while the criminals of the streets are in fear of him.
This is shown straight away after the first scene as a mugging takes place in an alleyway (very reminiscent of the way Bruce's parents met their demise). One of the two thugs involved in the crime shares rumours of the mysterious Batman and is visibly afraid. He should be as Batman descends behind them and sends them packing to the nearest hospital. This is a great opening sequence which I think may have been used as a source of inspiration for the excellent Batman: Animated Series a few years later as the opening titles do feel similar to this first scene.
Speaking of The Animated Series, you may notice that score of the movie is same as the score used for the cartoon. It's no wonder they decided to re-use the music as composer Danny Elfman does an excellent job of bringing the world of Gotham alive and the theme will become lodged in your head for a while afterwards.
Director Tim Burton did have his work cut out for him, as mainstream audiences who may never have read a Batman comic in their life would only know the Dark Knight from the show in the 60s featuring Adam West. Burton had to bring out the darker side of Batman in a way that wouldn't feel forced and he does it very well. He does try to mix some of the more camp and comical tones of early Batman with the newer, edgier side which can become a bit messy at times, but for the most part it works quite well.
Michael Keaton works well as Bruce Wayne which a lot of people would have found surprising at the time as he is well known for comedic roles and there was an initial backlash to his casting. I will admit that the Batman character didn't do much for me here and didn't seem too intimidating after the opening sequence. He wasn't bad and easily one of the better Batmen we've seen on screen. I definitely preferred him as Bruce. As Bruce he showed some social awkwardness to be expected from some that spends all night chasing bad guys, and could look clever and in control in a moments notice when it came time for Batman to take charge.
Kim Basinger was fine as reporter Vicki Vale, but needed to be saved a bit too often for my liking. She was great up until she started dating Bruce and then lost a bit of her character to become the typical damsel in distress.
The real gold here to talk about is Jack Nicholson as The Joker. He starts off as cool gangster Jack Napier before falling into a vat of chemicals that deformed his face and turned him into, arguably, the greatest comic book villain of all time. I feel like this performance has been forgotten somewhat ever since Heath Ledger's legendary take on the character. Nicholson is terrific here and steals every scene he's in. He's unpredictable as you never know if he'll kill you or just laugh right in your face. He shows a very comical side, which is reminiscent of the 1960s show, while also showing a darker, murderous side. I do think his change from typical gangster to psychotic villain is a bit too quick, although I suppose you could say that the old, rusted tools that were used to heal him severed his nerves and drove him insane, in one of the more iconic scenes from the movie where he looks at his deformed face for the first time.
I also loved that they went the more 'Killing Joke' version of The Joker as he was given a proper origin story and even has the iconic outfit from that comic. I feel his performance is now underrated as everyone now prefers Heath Ledger's take on the character. Trust me the movie's worth checking out for Nicholson alone.
There are some plot points that I think are way too ridiculous and coincidental, but I won't mention those as they're pretty big spoilers.
The story is pretty basic when you get down to it as it's the classic hero makes the villain and now the villain has to be stopped before killing innocents. It's the characters that bring that story to life and make for a very entertaining watch that any fan of the Caped Crusader can enjoy.
Overall I thought this was a great movie that brought the darker side of Batman to the silver screen for the first time, and until Christopher Nolan came along this was easily the best of the Batman feature films. I would even say that it could hang with a lot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies of today. As it stands it's a movie definitely worth your time and worth buying on Blu-Ray. Also, please just give Jack Nicholson another chance. He's no Ledger but he's still worth a look.
Thursday, 11 February 2016
Can I just quickly mention that I have the great soundtrack of this movie on in the background and listening to 'Angel of the Morning' again is bringing a huge smile to my face.
Deadpool is a Marvel (not studios) movie featuring who else but the one and only Deadpool. The basic plot of the movie is his revenge against those that gave him his amazing powers and fuck-ugly face.
Ryan Reynolds is in the starring role and in my opinion was the perfect choice for the part. I honestly cannot see anyone else in the role and I'm glad the casting crew didn't get scared after his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is a movie I'll get to another time.
Needless to say, this movie is an apology from Fox for that disastrous move, and believe me when I say, it was totally worth the wait.
This movie is just fantastic, and for Deadpool fans, it's pretty much everything you wanted it to be. I would say about 90% of all the jokes land (which is A LOT, believe me) and even people who may not get the various references to other movies the Marvel Universe and just the movie world in general will still find this movie funny as hell. The opening credits alone are golden.
The story isn't too much to write home about, but no one should really care about that in a movie like this. The story isn't terrible at all and it does actually feel very refreshing since just about every superhero movie since the first Avengers has been about the destruction of Earth in some way. Here it's just a personal revenge story.
I have to give credit to the pacing as well as it uses the old trick of showing events in the past mixing with current events, just like Man of Steel did except way better. It's a great move and it gives you a break at the perfect time from the current action and the origin story of Deadpool. I never found myself bored during the entire thing and I'm sure I'll laugh my ass off on a second viewing.
The supporting parts are great as Colossus works great as the guy trying to get Mr Pool on the side of good and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (best mutant name ever) who is the butt of most of Deadpool's jokes.
TJ Miller does a great job of being Weasel, Deadpool's only real friend. I also enjoyed Morena Baccarin as Deadpool's love interest as she's definitely a departure from most other love interests seeing as she starts the film off as a prostitute.
The only character I felt was flawed was Ed Skrein as Ajax (Francis!) who was just unmemorable as the main villain and felt like he was only there because he can match mutant powers with Deadpool. Still he wasn't bad and did well with the material he was given.
I'm trying so hard not to spoil anything because this is a movie you should see without knowing too much going in. I had a blast with Deadpool and I know I will again once I see it again in cinema and when it comes out on Blu Ray. Without a doubt, a superhero classic and one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.
I think it's safe to say that this was my favourite Marvel experience since the first Avengers.
Great action, great comedy, great everything. Deadpool is here to stay.
Oh yeah, and remember to stay afterwards for a great end credit scene.
Anyone else craving a chimichanga right now?
Tuesday, 9 February 2016
Paranormal Activity Review
No spoilers here to haunt you.
Paranormal Activity is a found footage horror movie directed by Oren Peli and stars Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat.
The story follows our two main characters as they are haunted by a spirit that may be a sinister entity that means to cause them harm.
I'll never forget the first time watching this movie. It was 2009 when the DVD was released and I decided to pick it up for watching alone at my Grandmother's house.
For some reason I decided to watch the movie in the dark, all alone. I thought I was tough because I'd seen so many other horror movies and this one couldn't be any different. Boy was I wrong.
My first clue should have been a list of ways to calm yourself down after watching it that came with the disc. So long story short, once the movie was over I refused to sleep without the light on, any little noise scared the shit out of me, and I could not bare to go outside the bedroom to look down the dark hallway out of fear that something would drag me into the darkness.
So yeah this movie pretty much scarred my psyche at that point. I obsessed over the movie and even took it into school one day when every class was showing movies for the end of term. I may have caused quite a few nightmares that day.
So after watching it again, how does it hold up? Well after dozens of viewings the scare factor does fade, but that would happen with any scary movie. I can guarantee that if I hear any bumps in the night, I will be hiding way under the covers.
Anyway back to the movie.
Let's start with the characters. I would say that Katie could be called the main character as the story mainly focuses on her. There's not much to her but she's likable enough in the role and can be unnerving when in creepy mode which I won't spoil. She is a bit too dependent on her partner Micah for my liking and never seems to take the action in her own hands.
Micah on the other hand is anything but a likable character. He's the only real gripe I have with this film as he spends the entire runtime acting like a douche to Katie, idiotically taunting the demon, and is so far up his own ass he can see his breakfast stuck between his teeth. No doubt a few of you will end up shouting at him to shut the hell up at some point.
There aren't any other characters in the movie aside from Katie's friend who says and does nothing and the Psychic who I'm just gonna call Mr Exposition.
Without trying to spoil any plot points the movie is fantastic at pacing itself as it starts off quite slow with not much happening and by the end ramps up the tension and scares to an insane level.
I do like the symbolism in the movie as it does seem to represent what can happen in a disintegrating, sometimes violent relationship. Although all of this symbolism is basically ruined in every sequel going forward.
The scares are excellent with no pointless jumpscares (well maybe except from a really pointless spider scene) and they will stick with you after the feature is finished. They're so simple and put anything with a Hollywood budget to shame with how effective they are. The film-maker clearly understands that the scariest thing is always the thing you can't see or understand. I still have no idea how the filmed the fantastic dragging scene. It's just frightening how real it all seems.
Overall, this is a fantastic horror movie and one of my favourites. This is one to bring out every Halloween for some real scares. Just be sure that you can deal with the nightmares that may come afterwards. Aside from an annoying main character, there's nothing I can really fault here. A horror masterpiece.
Monday, 8 February 2016
Pride + Prejudice + Zombies Review
Welcome to another casual review. There are no spoilers here.
I went to see PPZ in a Cineworld Unlimited screening as the film isn't released until 11/02/2016 here in Scotland. Usually these screenings are jam-packed, but this one was only half full at best. Might not be a good sign for the movie's box office takings. Anyway onto the review.
Pride + Prejudice + Zombies is romantic comedy horror directed by Burr Steers who doesn't have the best directing credits and the only one I remember is 17 Again, although he does have acting credits for both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
The film stars Lily James (Cinderella) and Sam Riley (Maleficent)(Strange movie connections there) and Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy respectively.
The world of PPZ is very much used to the notions of the living dead as it came as a result of a plague. The centre of London quarantined itself from the zombies by blowing up all bridges.
The story follows what I assume is the classic story from the original Pride & Prejudice as Elizabeth is not interested in the notion of marriage and only wishes to kill zombies. She then meets Mr Darcy and the plot turns from there.
One of my main complaints from the movie is from the main storyline as it mainly focuses on the romantic plot line. It's not bad, but we've seen it before and done much better.
It's hard to say what audience this movie is for. Romantic fans may not like the zombie violence, and zombie fans may not enjoy the romantic plot line that takes up most of the runtime.
I didn't mind it too much but I would have preferred way more scenes involving the zombies. Whenever they did appear, it was a joy to watch but those appearances were too few and far between.
I did enjoy the undead here as they had a nice, gruesome look to them and had way more intelligence than most other zombies as they could set traps for unsuspecting humans and even stop themselves from becoming feral. Not only that, but they can speak with a charming, upper-class English accent.
The first scene in this movie was a real highlight for me as it did a great job of ramping up tension while also showing some of the film's lore and, of course, some brutal zombie slaying.
Only two performances stood out to me (Darcy's strange Batman-like voice notwithstanding). The main character, Elizabeth, was a total badass as she stood her ground against all foes, human and zombie alike. She keeps up the performance all the way through until we reach some of the predictable and yawn-inducing romantic cliches that I won't spoil (though you can probably guess).
My favourite performance though, came from Matt Smith as a cousin of the Bennett sisters. Matt is of course most well known for his role as the 11th Doctor in Doctor Who, and fans of the show will definitely enjoy his performance. He easily gains the most laughs from the audience as the bumbling idiot, reminiscent of any Hugh Grant performance but without the charm.
The movie does do quite well with it's humour and is able to make the romantic storyline a bit more bearable. Nothing is laugh-out-loud funny but we do have a few giggles here and there.
Finally, without spoiling anything, the finale is a huge let down. I won't give any details but it really soured me on the whole experience and looks to be setting up a possible sequel down the line. I don't really see that happening guys.
Overall, Pride + Prejudice + Zombies is an enjoyable experience depending on your taste in movies. Horror and zombie fans may sour on the main plot line and lack of action. I think fans of romantic films might get a kick out of it seeing as it's a bit different from the norm. Still it's not long enough to totally bore you but it's a shame that it never takes advantage of it's over the top setting that could have made for amazing viewing.
Might be worth buying on Blu Ray some day.