Thursday, August 14, 2014

Son of Batman

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Should have used a, that gag was lame.

Son of Batman – 3 out of 5

Despite a theory that Batman is gay (tell that one to a fanboy and watch the freak out), there was a storyline in the comics in 2006 that involved Bats and Talia al Ghul having a little Robin. Son of Batman is the very loose adaptation of that story arc and, as painful as it is for me to admit that something Batman did wasn’t absolutely astounding, the film might be one of the worst animated films from DC—and, not to mention, that it is painful to say this too because they are the best when it comes to animated features.

At what point do you just give up and sell the damn arrow-
shooting gatling gun for one that shoots bullets?
Among the League of Assassins, Ra’s al Ghul is betrayed by his original choice for successor; Slade Wilson (voiced by Thomas Gibson) and left for dead before he can make it to the Lazarus Pits. In order to protect her son Damian (Stuart Allan), Talia al Ghul (Morena Baccarin) takes him to be with his father; Batman (Jason O’Mara). While the Dark Knight is left to take care of his brash, bratty and annoying son, he stumbles upon a plot involving Slade—now called Deathstroke—and an army of unbeatable assassins. Now Batman must team with his son to stop the threat and groom the child to be the new Robin.

Suddenly Carrie Kelley isn't such a shitty Robin anymore.

The violence is hardcore in this one but, with as unlikeable as
Damian is, I still can't bring myself to cheer too loudly when
this happened.
I say it in every DC film I review but the animation studio really knows how to adapt the best storylines from the comic company. They really know how to capture the characters and the action and they do it with style, flair and some amazing animation.  Another thing is the films are always filled with superior and very exciting action.  This one is no different and it even goes a step further by not watering down the action and refraining from including blood and nasty violence. While Son of Batman looks good and is acted by a great cast of actors (and is violent...don't forget the violence), I just couldn’t get into the film because of an unappealing story.

"My plan is simple..."

"Mmmf fffrrrmple mmmffthhhh."

Batman won't kill his enemies but he will, for the future,
question his stance on the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate.
The heart of the problems comes in the fact that Damian is a little turd of a human being. Despite being trained to be a lethal killer, he comes off as a spoiled brat. Naturally, this is expected in a story such as this (if Batman and his estranged son hit it off instantaneously and gelled the moment they started to work together, there wouldn’t have been much of a story, would there have been?) but the film never gets that moment right where the two connect and Damian learns to not be a little unlikeable shit. Sure, Damian is able to get his revenge for the death of his Grandpa but never does Batman’s way of crime-fighting rub off.

"Talia...are you sure he's mine?  This kid's a psycho...and that is coming from
a guy who fights crime dressed as a bat."

Is being a little less focused on something like killing the dude who killed your grandparent make you suddenly get along better with your dad? Because that’s what happened in the film and it felt like a cop-out that completely took for granted the limitless potential of Batman coming to terms with being a dad and setting his son on the straight and narrow path of justice and not vengeance. Instead, the film ends with Damian getting his revenge and all tension between the two is worked out. It felt really sloppy and not Batman-worthy.

Hanging out with his real son and Nightwing makes Batman wonder if there is
a returns policy for children.

Plus, the sexual tension between Killer Croc and Batman
was hard to deal with...
The film also suffers from some very piss-poor dialogue that, sadly, matches the bad conflict resolution. For example, when Talia first arrives in Gotham, Batman is fighting Killer Croc (who is jacked on an experimental drug) and Croc comments to Batman that steroids give him the munchies and then proceeds to try and eat his face. Now, that alone is pretty bad but it gets worse as Talia subdues Croc and then informs Batman that only she is allowed to bite him. I get it, movie. Talia and Batman banged nasties to get Damian but you couldn’t have come up with a better sexy innuendo?

"Cod piece don't fail me now..."

While the film continues to keep the streak alive of having great voice acting and the action is very exciting, the film suffers from just an all-around weak story and dialogue that would make even the worst comic books shutter and cringe. Yes, the animation in Son of Batman is fantastic but the overall product was painfully average.

Good ninja costume, Talia...I'm sure your son feels completely comfortable around
you when you wear it.


***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! How many people on the internet cried out "Spoilers!" when they found out Vesuvius erupts at the end?

Pompeii – 2 out of 5

Wait…Mount Vesuvius erupts and kills everyone in Pompeii?!? Thanks for ruining the ending, History Books!

Carrie-Anne Moss is in the film but, once the credits hit, I literally could not
remember if she actually had any lines or not.

Wait, he's walking away and not asking them if they
are entertained or not?
Just like how Titanic added a fictitious love story to a real-life historical tragedy, Pompeii adds a fictitious love story to a real-life tragedy…and rips off Gladiator along the way. After seeing his family murdered by the power-hunger Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), Milo (Kit Harington) grows up to become a slave and a gladiator (geez, he can’t catch a break). He soon forms a rivalry with fellow gladiator Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) but he also ends up getting smitten with Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of Pompeii’s ruler. While political intrigue and gladiator fights take place a-plenty in the story, the Roman shit hits the fan when Mount Vesuvius decides it’s time to rain fiery death on the world and black out the sky like it’s getting ready to be the cover of a death metal album. Now Milo must try to escape the raging lava flow with just a quick pit-stop that involves extracting revenge on Jack Bauer Corvus.

"Fuck yo city!"

"Nah, you know nothing Jon Snow!"
(Read that caption in your best Mr. Ed impression.  It'll
make the moment a lot funnier.)
I shouldn’t really be surprised that a film from Paul W.S. Anderson has no real defining features to it and just comes off as a faux-dramatic piece of work that, at its core, is really just a dog and pony show for the volcanic eruption—actually, I wasn’t surprised. I sat down fully understanding that I was going to watch a film with no real character development or tension and drama that would lack the hooks to be anything more than just an obvious attempt at stretching out the running time so that the movie isn’t just a short film about a volcano erupting and killing people. Remember, this is the guy who directed Death Race, the Resident Evil films and Alien vs. Predator.

"Hmmm, that slave with the flawless skin, somehow washed and conditioned
hair and meticulously trimmed beard has made my loins quiver."

If nothing else, Harington could really stare the fuck
out of everything in this film.
There’s nothing really special about Pompeii that really kept my interest. The characters are one-dimensional and boring and a lot of the performances are just going through the motions. While I love Kit Harington on Game of Thrones, I saw nothing unique in his character or performance that even made him worth watching. The only real stand out in the cast was Kiefer Sutherland—and I’m not saying he was great in the film. I’m just saying that he clearly was having fun in his role and really enjoyed playing the character of Corvus. Aside from this, everyone is just doing what is the bare minimum of requirements for them. This, actually, sums up the entire film, as well.

Sutherland was clearly having such a good time in this role that it is not hard
to imagine him high-fiving everyone on the production after every freakin' take.

"Come, let us form a bond of brotherhood in the arena...
It's not like some natural disaster is going to kill
us anytime soon."
While the story has a forbidden love angle, some drama and some political intrigue going on in it, none of it feels like it is really given any consideration beyond eating up screen time. It was obvious, from the moment the story hits the city of Pompeii that Mount Vesuvius was the real star and everything happening was just something to build anticipation towards the eruption. The entire story feels like really bad, by-the-book foreplay before the climax of a exploding peak (man, this metaphor is gross). The love story, the drama, the political tension, none of them really feel that heavy or important to the story and the lackluster performances that everyone but Sutherland is bringing to these moments with their characters only highlight that this film was made for one reason only: To see a volcano explode and have a historical disaster porn.

Those aren't masks, their faces froze like that when they saw the eruption.

I won’t lie here, Vesuvius erupting and the madness that follows its explosive wrath was great fun to watch. Even with all the disaster movie clich├ęs like the daughter getting separated from her mother and is saved only seconds before the surrounding havoc consumes and nearly destroys her or how the one guy who was a dick to our story’s protagonist gets singled out for death by the chaos like Mount Vesuvius itself grew rocky hands and pointed directly at them and said, “You…you’re next!” Even with all that, it was still visceral and fun to watch. Additionally, the special effects on the volcano itself were spectacular and looked fantastic! However, aside from this, Pompeii didn’t really offer much that made it worth a viewing beyond just seeing if someone uploaded the eruption to YouTube.

Honestly, it was the curly-Q's in the beard and the hair on the man on the right
that made Vesuvius single him out.

Seriously, this looks cool.
While the end is definitely cool and looks great, the rest of the movie offers up nothing but boredom. The lack of energy placed in everything that wasn’t the total fucking chaos at the end (and Sutherland’s performance—seriously, he really looked like he was having a ball!) only makes the film look like the only reason Anderson made the movie was to do a big explosion. If everything else didn’t feel like one giant afterthought, there might have been something decent to Pompeii. But, since it did, I think I will just stay with the Doctor Who episode “The Fires of Pompeii” for my doomed tale about the people of Pompeii fix.


***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Homefront...all the splendor of a Direct-to-DVD feature that you only know exists because you saw it at the RedBox.

Homefront – 1 out of 5

With an action film this generic, I am at a loss on how to adequately start this review. Normally, I talk about how the subject material relates to me but since the film is about a man battling against a meth dealer, I have literally no connection to this film in my real life. So, let’s just get to the synopsis…

But first, here's a pic of Statham looking sad and realizing that his gambling
debts is why he does most of these kinds of movies and why he says "yes" to
scripts without reading them.

Jason Statham is Phil Broker, a former DEA agent who was once undercover with a biker gang that dabbled in the meth-making/meth-selling business. After his cover is blown, a shoot-out begins and the head biker's son is killed. He vows revenge and Broker decides to leave the life behind and raise his daughter alone in a small town…a small town that just so happens to have a meth dealer in it. Well, as luck would have it, his daughter is tormented by a bully and she breaks his nose for him. This results in some angry parents demanding satisfaction from Broker. So, Broker does what anyone else would do, use his DEA fighting skills to humiliate the boy’s father in front of the boy and his wife. Now the wife is all pissy (but that might because the wife is played by Kate Bosworth and she looks like she hasn’t eaten in her entire life) and she goes to her brother Gator (James Franco)—who just so happens to be the meth dealer in this small town—and now Gator is declaring war on Broker. Gator finds out that Broker was once a law enforcement agent and gets in contact with the pissy biker. This pissy biker sends out another biker (Frank Grillo) to kill him but, since this is Jason Statham, he won’t go down easily and he’ll make sure to spit out some one-lines along the way.

If those blinds were vertical, Kate Bosworth would have disappeared from sight.

Okay, so the title is pretty generic and, when you combine it with the absolutely needless inclusion of the American flag on the poster, you would think the movie would be actually some sort of Red Dawn-esque film that involves some sort of attack on American soil from a foreign entity. Instead, it’s just a sloppy, very boring action film that has Jason Statham and James Franco doing their best to look like they didn’t do the film for just the paycheck.

"The check cleared, let's Franco this bitch...or, at least 45% Franco."

The story is pretty self-explanatory and doesn’t really offer up anything original or new. In the end, this one just feels like a Direct-to-DVD film that appears more like it belongs in the era of the 80s than it does in today’s day and age. Aside from this, the film also decides to have a lot of really strange sequences that, in the end, do little for the film—and I don’t mean that because Winona Ryder is needlessly in the film (and by needless, I don’t mean her but the film could have easily existed without her character and with a minimal amount of rewrites).

Still, she is giving it her all to the, kudos for that.

First off, the whole conflict that sets up Broker being outed as a DEA agent feels like some sort of ridiculous Rube Goldberg action movie device. It all begins with a bully that starts shit with Broker’s daughter (I won’t even get into the fact that prior to the bullying, we see the daughter looking very upset about doing playground stuff and her looking at the monkey bars like they killed her mother and she’s trying to overcome her fear of swinging on them—it’s very strange and I’m not entirely sure why this sequence was even given such deep consideration).

So, was this included just to eat up a couple of minutes?

I don't know why the little girl was so worried about, that
bully is clearly not of human origin and looks too soft
and weak to bother fighting back with.
Bullying is real and parents get involved—I know that but the reaction from the boy’s mother (Kate Bosworth’s skeleton) is a little much. Sure, she’s a meth addict but getting pissed because of a playground incident and thinking a man humiliated your husband and then requesting that your meth dealing brother go about a route of having him killed seems to be a little much—even for a generic action film. It only gets sillier as the character Gator seeks counsel from his ex-girlfriend (Winona Ryder)—a character that just so happens to know that there are people looking for Broker (what a small world!). And I’ll just mention that the film seems to begin with Statham trying to do what I think is an American accent but seems to give up after two lines and go back to the voice we known him for.

The long hair at the beginning was very unsettling, too.

This dynamic just made a lazy action film feel even lazier but it gets worse as the film establishes the fact that Gator is paying off the police (in the form of the awesome Clancy Brown as the town sheriff) but this fact literally never comes into play. When I heard this, I thought that Broker would be left alone as a meth dealer tortures him but he doesn’t want to get violent because of his daughter so he goes the legal route but this never happens. In fact, in the end, the Sheriff goes out of his way to uphold the law and his corruption is never ever mentioned again or even shown that it exists. So, why even mention it and have it in the film?

"Wouldn't it be great if my corruption had a more palabable reason to exist in
the story?"

"Nah, it's fine the way it is..."

Okay, so the story has some major problems and it is clear that the writer of the script (none other than Sly Stallone) didn’t really put much effort into it (it was, after all, something that was originally suppose to be a Rambo film) but there has to be some decent action, right? Well, actually, there are some okay fight scenes but that’s about it. Beyond that, the movie just sorta trudges along and looks like it doesn’t feel like doing much of anything…kinda like the cast.

I'm starting to really enjoy Frank Grillo's work...too bad Homefront clearly doesn't.

It seems at one point, Franco starts to turn into a gorilla.
As much as I like James Franco, he really didn’t look too interested in the part and Jason Statham kinda follows along those same lines. I’m not the biggest fan of Statham (I’m a bigger fan of his earlier work than his later stuff) but he could not have looked more disinterested in this film. His character is constantly watching his surroundings like he’s worried that he’s going to get jumped but I can’t help but wonder if it was actually just Statham looking for a way to escape the film. The only one who looks like they give a shit about the film is Winona Ryder…and, I already explained how she could have easily been written out of the movie and you probably wouldn’t have noticed that much.

"If I run now, I will be able to squeeze passed the catering table and make it to
freedom before the director realizes I'm gone..."

In the end, there’s nothing really special about Homefront and the end product just feels like an action film that is lost and confused and can’t quite get onto the straight and narrow path. Even with the inclusion of some decent fight scenes, nothing about this movie really warranted the time I used to view it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I suppose this is where I yell "Turtle Power" or "Cowabunga" but let's cut all that and just have a pizza party.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 3 out of 5

It’s pretty amazing when you think about how long the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have remained relevant in pop culture. Ever since their debut in the comics in the 80s, the Turtles have had a fanbase that keeps getting bigger. Sure, a lot of it has to do with the tamer, less gritty and dark cartoon adaptation that began in 1987 and got a lot of dudes my age hooked and now share that heroes in a half shell addiction with their children or just random people on the street (I’m no longer allowed at my local coffee shop for preaching the awesomeness of the Turtles—I apparently "scare" the customers). However, when you sit back and look at the fact that there has been three animated series (the second of which is my personal favorite), a slew of comic books published from the likes of Mirage, IDW and more, a small army of action figures, and a bunch of films (this one being the fifth theatrical feature for the four brothers), it’s safe to say the Turtles are just as cool as they were when I first ran into them all those years ago.

The evil Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his equally evil Foot Clan led by Karai (Minae Noji) who is also very evil (there’s a lot of evil here), have New York City held in a grip of fear...and evil.  The Shredder and the Foot have a plan to bring the city to its knees and it involves the genetic work of scientist Eric Sacks (William Fichtner). Sacks was attempting to recreate a mutagen that was fabled about in feudal Japan but, after an accident, his work was lost. Little did he know that his work lived on in the form of four turtles and a rat. The mutagen transformed the lab experiments and now they must stop the Shredder from unleashing death on the entire city. It’s up to Leonardo (voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) to save the day and protect the overzealous reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and her smitten camera man; Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett), who find themselves caught in the middle.

                                                                                                                                Paramount Pictures
With three fingers, it's hard to tell when a Turtle is flipping you off.

Okay, so we all know the reaction fans had when they found out that Michael Bay was attached to this reboot of the four famous ninjas. The words "rape," and "childhood" were used quite a bit—seriously, go to any message board that discussed this and drink every time you read the phrase "rape my childhood" and you’ll be dead of alcohol poisoning within minutes. I won’t sit here and say that I wasn’t thrilled about Bay’s attachment. I’m not a Bay fan. Sure, I will admit the guy knows how to do action and much of his camera work is downright impressive but the guy doesn’t understand how to capture characters (I secretly think it has to do with the fact he’s actually a killer robot from the future who learned that, in order to control his programming to kill, learned that he can make big explosions for movies and make shit loads of cash doing it). However, I calmed down a bit when I learned he was only producing it and that the guy who directed Wrath of the Titans was going to helm it—wait, what? Well, to be fair, Jonathan Liebesman directed Battle: Los Angeles and I thought that movie was alright. But he did do the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel to the reboot that actually felt like a reboot to the reboot.  Okay, the director is hit or miss, is what I'm saying.

                                                                                                                                 Paramount Pictures
Ha ha, he just watched Wrath of the Titans and experienced Sam Worthington's acting.

Then came the news from Bay that said the Turtles’ origin would have some alterations and that there would be an "alien" element to how the four brothers and their talking rat father came to be. We should count ourselves lucky that a nuclear war wasn’t started because the fans weren’t happy—I, included. We didn’t want Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles. We wanted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, I failed to take into consideration that the Turtles, in both their comic form and later animated forms, already had an extraterrestrial element to their origin. In the comics, the mutagen from TCRI was a product from the alien race named the Utrom (the race that inspired the more known Krang from the original cartoon). So, in that sense, this rebooted origin—alien goo and all—is the closest we have got to the original comic start. Still, there were some changes made and I honestly didn’t dig them all. Most of my complaints with the origin story are minor and were just a matter of preference than anything else. For example, Splinter and Shredder don’t really have much history together and I felt that robbed some drama from the story but, overall, the new origin worked for the most part.

                                                                                                                                Paramount Pictures
Pretty soon the media is going to report on the new teenage craze of kids throwing
turtles at cars that isn't actually happening...just like the knockout game, kids smoking
Mentos or whatever stupid things one kid did and the media claims all kids are doing.

I was keeping my excitement at bay (tee-hee) with this film until I saw the new designs of Leo, Donnie, Raph, and Mikey. At that point, I no longer cared that there was some alien to them or that Bay was around to muck things up. I really liked how they looked and, after seeing the film, I still feel that way. Yes, the internet once again exploded because they had nostrils but, I honestly dug their look. This is the closest I think we’ll have to realistic looking mutant turtles without spitting into the eyes of God and actually mutating turtles like we should have been doing since the original cartoon debuted. These guys aren’t puppets anymore, they are wonders of motion-capture technology. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the work Jim Henson’s crew did for the first live action film (by the way, I revisited the film and wrote about it for The Robot Pajamas, you can check it our here) but technology has advanced and what we got was designs that captured the characters excellently and looked frighteningly realistic. I will admit, though, that the designs might have been a little too busy as they have flair literally painted all over them and they are a lot larger than their cartoon and comic counterparts but, in the end, I did enjoy how they looked.

                                                                                                                                  Paramount Pictures
Believe it or not, I worked with a dude who looked exactly like this...without being
green and a turtle, of course.

In my humble opinion, I thought the production really nailed the characteristics that I love about the turtles. After I revisited the original film, I really noticed how the film failed to capture the tech-guru that Donnie was but this film got it. It also nailed Leo’s desire to be the good leader, Raph’s attitude and Mikey’s fun loving nature. Sure, at times this presentation of their characteristics feels tacked on like with the fact Donnie is wearing "nerd" glasses and has all sorts of gadgets hot glued to his shell and body but I really got to see the turtles in their closest to their truest form ever. This was also achieved by having the right cast, as well. While Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher and Jeremy Howard did both the voices and acting of the Turtles and Knoxville was only around to do Leo’s voice, all the actors really captured the feel of the Turtles and were able to give them voices that not only reflected their personality traits but made them feel authentic and not just cartoon characters like the other live action films did. In all honesty, I really like Knoxville as Leo. I didn’t know if he would fit but he completely did.

                                                                                                                                Paramount Pictures
Say what you will about the designs of the Turtles but Leonardo has the most
beautiful blue eyes!

Let’s move on to the next iconic character from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lore, the patriarch of this mutant family; Splinter. This mutant rat and adoptive father of the Turtles was a bit win/lose for me in the film. I wasn’t too thrilled about his design. The hairless face and the black eyes were a bit unsettling to me. While rats don’t have human-like eyes and their old vision-balls are, indeed, all black, the look translated to something that reminded me more of the various forms of demonic possession I’ve seen in films and movies rather than a wise rodent who can kick all kinds of ass. And the seemingly hairless face just made him look like a rat fetus with a very deep tan. However, I thought Tony Shalhoub did a great job as the voice and Splinter has a great fight scene with the Shredder that complete makes up for the limits the puppet Splinter had in the first live action film. This isn’t a feeble, slow moving Splinter we’ve seen in other properties but a real tail-whipper (get it? Because he’s a rat and has a tail…I’m sorry for that awful joke).

                                                                                                                               Paramount Pictures
I'll spare you the soulless eyes...

One thing I expected to fully dislike in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was Megan Fox as April O’Neil. I’m not a fan of Fox, I don’t think she can act. "But Rev., she’s hot though." Sorry to inform you, Text Meant to Act as a Misogynistic Commenter, I don’t find her attractive—she looks greasy and orange tans don’t do it for me but that's besides the point and has literally nothing to do with her role in the film.  I was shocked to see that Fox wasn’t looking exhausted like she just came out of a nap the way she did in the two Transformers films she was in but, rather, actually looked like she gave a shit. Granted, she still isn’t giving a performance that really grabbed my attention and she isn’t going to win any awards for her role as April or even be remembered for playing the character when the next inevitable reboot comes out but she looks like she is trying and that’s probably the most I’ve seen from her in awhile. To summarize, I didn’t think she was terrible and was actually pretty tolerable in the role. Her counterpart, however, not so much. 

                                                                                                                               Paramount Pictures
I'd make a selfie joke but the camera is clearly facing the wrong way for a selfie...

As much as I like Will Arnett, he didn’t bring much to the comedy with his role and felt more like a third wheel. While it was nice to see Vernon re-imagined into something a lot more tolerable, the sad reality is that the movie could have easily existed without him…of course, doing so would have robbed the movie of a great (and sneaky) Arrested Development reference the film provided.

                                                                                                                                 Paramount Pictures
"I've made a huge mistake."

Now, let’s get to our villain…you can’t have the Turtles without Shredder (yes, the animated TMNT did it and, actually, I thought that worked). Now, when we saw the first trailer, the fanboys were once again lighting their torches and sharpening their pitchforks for the swords-a-plenty Robo-Shredder that we got to see (they were already fuming when they heard rumors that William Fichtner was going to be the Shredder) and, I have to say, I’m a little bit with them. This new Shredder is ridiculous…and awesome at the same time. Just like Splinter, I felt there were good things, cool things, and what the fuck things about the iconic villain Oroku Saki. First off, I liked the dark and malice-filled approach that Tohoru Masamune brought to the role (much closer to the comics than the bumbler of the cartoon) and there are some really awesome fights scenes with Shredder in it, however, that robot suit can be quite silly…yes, silly for a film about four mutant turtles that are ninjas and named after painters.

                                                                                                                                   Paramount Pictures
No one tell Sacks that Shredder isn't in the suit.  He thinks he's in the most epic staring
contest that has ever existed.

Here’s the thing I had with the suit…it actually looks cool—in a hooky, video game boss battle kind of way but the problem comes from the fact the suit was just too busy. I will totally admit that I thought the suit looked really cool but it looks cool in the fact that it seems like it was designed by a 10 year old boy who just kept telling his artist father who was doing the concept art that it needed more knives. It also kinda hurt that this is one of the only ways we see the Shredder in the film. Yes, there is some short scenes where it feels like he is constantly surrounded by shadows and he has his talks with Karai and Sacks completely out of uniform but, besides that, we never see the Shredder we’re used to and only get to see him in action as Robo-Shredder. This is just a personal preference but I would have liked to see Classic Shredder in an outfit that fits all the old designs take on the Turtles, fail, and THEN turn to some cybernetics/robotics upgrades.

                                                                                                                                  Paramount Pictures
"But is there enough sharp things on him..." - Michael Bay.

Like my thoughts on the characters, the film is just a collection of "this is good/ this is bad" moments. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the film. I thought the movie was very fun and I really enjoyed it and I honestly think a lot of the hate it is receiving has to do with the fact that Bay’s name is attached to it—there’s no point in playing coy, we all have knee-jerk reactions to that man’s name (but will gladly pay the money to see his stuff because we all are, at heart, hypocrites). I really liked all the references to the old cartoon and the comics (like Shredder saying, "Tonight I dine on turtle soup."), the film has some very exciting and fun action scenes, I thought William Fichtner was great as Sacks (but I like Fichtner in everything he does) and I thought the film was very funny. However, there were things I wasn’t too thrilled about. For example, the film introduces the Shredder’s adopted daughter Karai and that is awesome…but she really wasn’t developed or utilized for anything other than being a generic commander of The Foot. I also didn’t like that the Foot Clan was more of a militia than an organized group of threatening ninjas. My biggest complaint, ultimately, had to be the fact the film feels like it is moving very fast.

                                                                                                                                 Paramount Pictures
Honestly, the film needed more from Karai.

I’m not saying the film is short but the film moves at a pace that never really slows down—even for back-story or character development. The beginning feels like its moving in the usual "let’s devote a half an hour to build up what made these heroes who they are" type of thing that origin films are known for but this doesn’t last long and after April stumbles on the Turtles and quickly figures out that her past and theirs are connected, the film goes into overdrive and it goes into action-overload. The movie suddenly feels like it put its foot on the gas and decided to not let up. The story goes from the Turtles getting taken by Shredder to learning about the Shredder’s nefarious plan to the Turtles getting rescued from the Shredder to the Turtles having their epic showdown and defeating the Shredder (drink every time I used "Shredder" in that sentence). While this resulted in a Second and Third Act that never lets up on the very satisfying action, it also robbed the film of the drama that should have been there when it concerns character growth and the relationships between Leo, Don, Raph, Mikey and Splinter. Did this make the film a let-down for me? Absolutely not, but it would have been nice to see something more.

                                                                                                                                Paramount Pictures
"What if, instead of drama, we have an exciting action scene that involves the Turtles
sliding down a snowy mountain?" - Jonathan Liebesman

"Shut up and take my money." - Rev. Ron

*That's a totally real interaction that I just totally made up.

Is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the best form the guys have taken? Probably not. The movie definitely has its problems that feel Bay-related and can easily be blamed on him (like the fact Shredder’s suit looks like a reject Transformer and the fact the film incorporates a fart joke) but it’s a long way from the bubble-gum silliness of the original cartoon (something which I now have a hard time watching). Overall, I had a lot of fun watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and, even with its issues that resulted in a story that isn’t as rich as it could be and some strange design decisions, the movie’s positives kept me entertained and left me with an enjoyable theater experience.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! The sad reality that there is probably a horrifying fan-fic version of this film on the internet called Batman:  Sexual Assault on Arkham.

Batman: Assault on Arkham – 4 out of 5

Have you played the Arkham games? If you have, you know they are awesome and are probably the best superhero video games ever produced! Because these games are so awesome, DC had to make an animated film that featured this version of Batman and his enemies…and they did with Batman: Assault on Arkham.

All Batman has to do to be cool is be Batman.

The biggest challenge this film faced, once again trying
to convince people that Captain Boomerang is a threat.
The Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler) has some information that could be detrimental to Amanda Waller (C.C.H. Pounder). Using her resources, she gathers a team of criminals to do her bidding. Deadshot (Neal McDonough), Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), King Shark (John DiMaggio), Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito), Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale) and Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis), are brought in and coerced to cooperate thanks to an explosive implanted in their necks and are told to break into Arkham Asylum and get a thumb drive that The Riddler is in possession of. The only problem is this Suicide Squad is being tailed by Batman (voiced by the only man who should ever voice Batman; Kevin “Fucking” Conroy!) who is on the case of finding a dirty bomb that the Joker (Troy Baker) has hidden somewhere in Gotham.

"Don't push me, Suicide Squad.  My chins are hovering over the button."

We all know there are two kinds of people in the world: People who love Batman and negative people who hate him and people you don’t need in your life. Batman: Assault on Arkham is for those who really, really like Batman and the universe he exists in (especially, the Arkham game universe). It even wins more points for being a little more mature than some Batman endeavors but, some of that maturity ends up becoming gratuitous and recoils right back into a less mature realm—but I’ll get to that later.

Deadshot just punched someone, he's not raising his hand to prove that he's sure...
fuck, that reference is really dated.

Since DC is the king of comic book animation adaptation (say that ten times fast), it’s no surprise that Assault on Arkham is all kinds of awesome. The animation looks fantastic and the character designs not only stay true to the video games that inspired this feature but also have the usual look that has become synonymous with the DC animated films. Sure, this can make for some weird times like Batman looks like a dying alcoholic sometimes…

Oh great, he's going to tell us about how he's an orphan again...

And Killer Frost has gigantic thighs that can clearly crush watermelons…

It's okay to be tired.  Your thighs are freakin' enormous.

But, in the end, all the characters still look great (even though it seems that all men have the same type of body build).

Granted, Bane's body type may be a tad different...

The worst part, knowing that King Shark peed in the water
as he exited.
Additionally, the film has a fantastic acting cast. Right off the bat, the man with the iconic Batman voice and the first person anyone should think of when pondering who the best Batmen were is here. Kevin Conroy is an icon and he continues to prove why he keeps being Batman after almost 20 years. I also really enjoyed Neal McDonough as Deadshot and John DiMaggio as King Shark and I don’t think DiMaggio is capable of being disappointing in any way when it concerns voice acting. For the most part, every actor really nailed the characteristics of each player in this film and was able to capture that feel in their acting. My only complaint would be that Troy Baker is trying to imitate Mark Hamill as the Joker and there’s no Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. Hynden Walch does a great job as Quinn and Baker is decent as the Joker but, like Conroy with Batman, Strong and Hamill set the standard and it’s just hard to come close.

Whenever someone says that Luke Skywalker had a shitty post-Star Wars career, it's
okay to punch them because he did the Joker's voice so well that people can
only hope to imitate.

Like all DC animated films, the movie has got top-notch action and they don’t shy away from the dark, hardcore side of the violence. The film isn’t afraid to show death and blood and, it is in this more adult turn, that makes the film a great watch—however, the more mature approach starts to get annoying in the fact that the film and the entire production that worked on it clearly has a hard-on for getting Harley Quinn and Killer Frost nude.

"It was important for the story." - the inevitable commenter will say.

This happens so often that it starts to get ridiculous and very sexist. This objectifying women has been a problem in comics for a long time and this film does little to help the issue. We already have to deal with the sad reality that literally every male in the film is covered in head-to-toe clothing and armor while Killer Frost wears a bathing suit and thigh-high nylons. Sure, Harley is a little more covered but the designers made sure that we get to see her belly (because that’s a smart choice when you constantly find yourself in battle with a man who hurls razor-sharp, bat-shaped projectiles).

Extra points if Bats can actually get the batarang to stick in her belly button.

While nudity in a film is not necessarily a bad thing, ridiculously gratuitous nudity is. At one point, two characters engage in sex and, in that instance, the nudity seems warranted (which, I might add, is done where all naughty bits are obscured, it’s more hinted nudity…but that’s no better). Making the films more mature is fine and sex comes with maturity, so, in that sense, the nakedness is okay and manageable. However, the other times that the writers and animators fell all over themselves to get some underboob of Harley and Frost just becomes ridiculous. Fuck, at one point they try to smuggle Killer Frost into Arkham by having her pose as a dead body being checked into the morgue…and she does this naked! Why? She’s in a fucking body bag! Why did she have to be naked in there?

Seriously, it made no god damn sense.  Were they really worried that Arkham security
was going to check the clothing status of the body in the body bag?

Comics are no longer a boy’s game and the need for strong (non-sexualized) female characters is out there. Go to any convention and you’ll find there are just as many women as men out there into these superheroes. Shit, the other day a female bank teller was telling me how much she’s a geek and loves the X-Men because I was wearing a Justice League shirt. Wouldn’t it be cool to see that the females in these comics aren’t just hyper-sexualized beings and are actually people who can kick ass without wearing only lingerie and more cleavage than character depth? Anyway, I know some people may be like, “Awww yeah, Harley’s all nude with her boobies out for the open air to kiss,” but I’m like, “Really? Am I watching the writers’ and animators’ weird sexual fetishes play out on screen?”

Some of the other fetishes were just as hard to watch.

Aside from the middle-school boy approach to the female characters in the film, Batman: Assault on Arkham is a fantastic animated film from DC. The action is hardcore, gritty, dark and satisfying and it was cool to see the Suicide Squad get to be the main stars in a Batman film. Additionally, the voice acting is top shelf stuff and, overall, the movie keeps the standards high for DC and their animated features. Plus…it has Batman. Do we really need anything more?