Thursday, September 29, 2016

Justice League vs. Teen Titans


***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 (or other commenters), 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 worst part is the fact this whole battle was resolved due to the fact that every member of both teams all had moms named Martha (Yes, I will beat this dead horse of a joke into oblivion).



Justice League vs. Teen Titans – 4 out of 5


The DC animated universe continues with Justice League vs.Teen Titans and, for one reason or another, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to see this one.  While I still think DC is doing a great job with their animated films—honestly better than their live-action stuff currently—this one just didn’t speak to me and I put it on the backburner.  It’s possible that due to their last few being less than I hoped for caused me to subconsciously take my time seeing this one but, after finally getting around to it, I have to say it wasn’t half bad.

"Teen Titans...Assemble--no wait, we can't say that or the even super-villain
Intellectual Property Lawyer will show up."


So...where exactly do the Teen Titans live?
In an effort to have his son Damian (Stuart Allen) learn teamwork, Batman (Jason O’Mara) sends him to work with the Teen Titans.  Led by Starfire (Kari Wahlgren), Robin is introduced to the shapeshifting Beast Boy (Brandon Soo Hoo), the boy with some interesting tech connected to him; Blue Beetle (Jake T. Austin) and the mysterious and mystic Raven (Taissa Farmiga).  While this is going on, a violent supernatural force called Trigon (Jon Bernthal) possesses the Justice League and seeks out Raven so that he can take over the world.  Now it’s up to the Teen Titans to free Superman (Jerry O’Connell), Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), The Flash (Christopher Gorham) and Cyborg (Shemar Moore) and save the world by stopping the evil menace.

I guess if I was an all-powerful being I would wear stupid pants like that, too.


Continuing with the tradition of their other animated films, Justice League vs. Teen Titans continues to adapt their comic book stories in unique, albeit loose, ways and they fill them with great animation, killer action and a great cast of voice actors.  The new additions to the cast and returning favorites are all doing their jobs terrifically and really making their characters come to life.  I especially liked Jon Bernthal as the villain Trigon and found that Brandon Soo Hoo was very entertaining as Beast Boy.

I feel I should make a Harambe joke with Beast Boy but I just can't bring myself
to do it.


One major issue I had with the film, though, is it continues the very old and very tired tradition in the world of comics of making sure that females aren’t equal to men and that women are sex symbols first.  While the story is essentially all about Raven and her lineage and connection to Trigon, it’s made clear that it is Robin; Damian Wayne, who is the man that gets her to the spotlight.  Robin is brought to the Teen Titans, Robin is leery of Raven and Robin is the awesome male version of Mary Sue going on here and then, very awkwardly, the story shifts from how amazing Damian Wayne is to Raven and who she is.  While there isn’t anything essentially wrong with Robin being the catalyst that brings us to Raven’s tale but showing that she is the focal point of the conflict was pretty sloppy in its execution.  This element is actually pretty amusing when you consider they decided to include a scene where Superman and Wonder Woman go on a date to a movie and after it’s over Wonder Woman complains because the woman in the film is treated like she is less than a man.  Oops.

By the power of a goth attitude and the color purple!



I am actually pretty forgiving of using Robin to get to Raven’s story because Damian is connected to Batman and DC won’t do anything without Batman having some part in it—he’s their money-maker—but the hardest part to overlook is how DC puts Starfire as a sex symbol first and a hero a distant second.  This woman is made leader of the Teen Titans in this adaptation but you’d never know it.  She’s never really given any weight to her character and, even worse, is just played for her T&A appeal.  There’s an atrocious scene where she is video chatting with Dick Grayson and you see her lean in close to the camera in her barely closed robe so that all you see is her breasts and there’s not one but two shots of her butt as she is changing into her uniform during a battle at a carnival.  These shots are completely superfluous and just look like a sex-crazed middle school student directed this part of the film.  I know this makes me sound like one of those feminazis and social justice warriors that people complain about on Twitter but it’s 2016.  If we can have male heroes who are identified by their actions and heroics first, can’t we have our female heroes be the same?  Sure, comics can be about eye candy for both sexes but there also has to be a balance and it would have been nice to Starfire as more than just a body to lust over.

Yes, DC.  This was totally necessary.


My problems with sexist writing aside, Justice League vs.Teen Titans is a fairly entertaining animated film from DC.  Granted, it’s not the most memorable of their films but it continues the standard they’ve set for the technical prowess of their features and it feels far less constrained and rushed in the way some of their other films have come off.  Additionally, it’s kinda cool to see characters like the Jaime Reyes version of Blue Beetle, Beast Boy and Raven show up.  

I leave you now with a pic of Blue Beetle and not another shot of
Starfire's butt.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Taking of Deborah Logan

***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 (or other commenters), 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! Always take your Deborah Logans with water and don't operate heavy machinery afterwards.



The Taking of Deborah Logan – 4 out of 5

I had watched The Taking of Deborah Logan a year or so ago one day on a whim.  My girlfriend was scrolling through what Netflix had to offer and settled on that one.  My initial reaction as it started was a tad on the negative side because I find the horror genre to be incredibly disappointing most of the time and the film was a “found footage” feature and I rarely find them worth the time.  However, the film surprised me greatly and, since October is almost upon us and I’ll be watching more horror movies to get in the Halloween spirit, I decided to revisit this one to see if it is just as good on the second viewing.

Yep, nothing creepy about this shot cameraman.  You pervert.

A small documentary film team led by a young woman named Mia Medina (Michelle Ang) set out to document an elderly lady by the name of Deborah Logan (Jill Larson).  Deborah is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and is being cared for by her daughter Sarah (Anne Ramsey).  The illness has taken a financially toll on the family and Sarah hopes that this documentary will help them out a bit but, to both her and the film team’s surprise, Deborah is suffering from more than just a degenerative disease.  Strange and haunting events start to occur and they all soon learn that something far more sinister is at play.

Grammy is mad but she'll still make you tons of food and give you candies
because even supernatural activity can't stop her spoiling nature.

What's truly amazing is the lack of casual racism
that you'd expect from the character of Deborah.
You know, because she's old.
The thing that struck me the most about this film is the pace of it.  Never does the story feel like it’s wasting time with superfluous scares or mindless fluff meant to extend the running time.  Every second of this story feels like it is building the situation the filmmakers find themselves in and the mystery surrounding what is happening to Deborah.  Adding to that is the way the film builds with its intensity.  It begins with a creepy moment here and there where Deborah is acting strangely—which can be explained away due to her condition—but then starts the moment that are a little harder to blame on the Alzheimer’s.  By the time the film gets to its climax, the film hits a moment where everything is completely insane and bonkers and it delivers a truly WTF moment that is just as shocking the second time as it was the first time.  In any other film, this moment could have been a moment of accidental comedy or just come off as too over-the-top but the director and writers really nailed a pacing that made this larger-than-life moment seem legitimate and believable within the film’s reality.

No, this isn't a spoiler for the crazy moment at the end but this is still
really nuts.

Another aspect of the film that works very effectively are the performers.  I was impressed to see that the film actually has recognizable character actors in the cast.  While these faces may not be household names, they are definitely the actors that you find yourself saying, “Hey, I’ve seen that person before.”  Often, “found footage” films abandon this route because they are attempting to pull a trick from The Blair Witch Project and cast unknowns so they can act like that what you are seeing is real.  Since this sub-genre has essentially become a cliché now, this venture no longer feels warranted and it feels like The Taking of Deborah Logan isn’t even going to attempt to try to fool you into imagining this is real and just settled for a good cast to tell a good story—and it works.  The performances are fantastic and, even though I’ve seen some of the actors in other roles, their talents are strong enough that I was immersed into the film’s reality much more strongly than I do with the “found footage” features that bring in the less-than-talented unknowns.

I really have to point out how great Jill Larson is in this film.  She is capable of
being both a sweet grandma type and a very creepy monster type.
That's not an easy balance to master.

So now, the final question is if I found The Taking of Deborah Logan to be scary or not?  At the end of it all, that’s what we want from our horror films.  We want them to raise our blood pressure and put us on edge.  While I didn’t find the movie to be really scary, I definitely found it creepy.  Director Adam Robitel does a fantastic job of creating atmosphere and that is such a key element in horror films and one that, sadly, is passed over for formulaic stinging music and easy jump scares.  This formula in Deborah Logan makes for a horror movie that was far more satisfying and unsettling than one that would just be scary in the moment.  Plus, that final shocking reveal is scarier than a dozen films built entirely on the jump scare.

Now Michael Myers is in the house?  The Logan homestead is cursed!

With its excellent cast and fantastic execution, The Taking of Deborah Logan proves to be one of the very few truly incredible “found footage” films in existence and belongs right alongside the pioneers of this sub-genre.  While replay value might be limited because the “What the living hell?” moment at the end will lose its punch on repeated viewings, there’s no deny how unsettling and downright creepy this movie is capable of being.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Keanu

***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 (or other commenters), 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 kinda want a kitten and name it Keanu now.



Keanu – 4 out of 5


For my dollar (which has my picture on it, by the way), Key & Peele is the best skit show that has ever come out.  Sure, MadTV is fine because it gave us the guys and, granted, Saturday Night Live has its longevity and its legacy behind it but Key & Peele made some memorable moments and they knew how to end a sketch without the usual awkwardness seen every Saturday.  So, when I heard these two funny guys were making their own movie called Keanu, I didn’t really need to see a trailer or even hear what the film was about because it was guaran-damned-teed that I was going to see it.  Now that I finally got around to it since it came out on DVD, I have to say that these guys continue to bring the laughs and bring them in a huge way.

Keanu is not a punk that hates Mondays.  He makes Mondays his bitch!


Upset over the fact his girlfriend broke up with him, Rell Williams (Jordan Peele) finds happiness again in the form of a stray cat that wanders up to his door one day.  He names the cat Keanu and it seems like everything is going to be okay again but one day when he and his cousin Clarence Goobril (Keegan-Michael Key) come home, they are shocked to discover that Rell’s house was broken into and Keanu was stolen.  Now the two men must act like gangsters and infiltrate a gang led by a man named Cheddar (Method Man), who is currently in possession of the cat, in order to get the happiness that Rell lost.  Little did Rell realize that the cat once belonged to a drug lord and that drug lord was killed by two assassins calling themselves the “Allentown Boys” and those two killers have also claimed possession over the cat and they are also coming to find him and they will stop at nothing and will kill anyone who gets in their way.

The Allentown Boys look intimidating but that robot animal in the background
is just outright terrifying.


I had that same face watching the latest presidential
race.  Ha ha, that's topical, amirite?
It’s a silly premise but it’s written by Jordan Peele and Alex Rubens (he wrote for the show as well as Community and Rick and Morty) and they take that premise and make it something fantastic and very funny.  For the most part, the feature is the type of comedy heist film where identities become askew and it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before; however, what makes Keanu work is the brilliant performances from Key and Peele and the fact that everything they get into—and they get into some serious shit—is all over a kitten.  That idea alone is hysterical but when you watch the very talented duo make their characters try to fit in with the gang—and these two characters do not belong in that world—is absolute comedic majesty.  Their reactions, their timing, their everything perfectly conveys the characters fear of being around these dangerous types but also their determination to rescue the cat.  Add in the fact that things just get crazier and crazier for these two in their journey and you have a film that kept me laughing pretty much from beginning to end.

Separate or together, these two are just comedy magicians!
Well, not literally because they don't do magic but their talents are incredible
that it feels like magic and I've gone and over-explained a throwaway
caption because I couldn't think of anything better to write here.


The only real complaint I had over Keanu was the fact that there was times when the momentum would come to a screeching halt.  For example, there was a moment where Rell and Clarence are separated while on a mission for the gang and they are both concurrently caught up in their own comedic ordeal.  Both scenes are very amusing but there wasn’t the best rhythm of going back and forth due to each scene having their own unique flow.  There would be a great sequence being delivered on one end that would cut to the other scene and momentum would have to rebuild itself due to each scene having their own pace and different comedic beats.  This cut in momentum was seen in other areas of the film where there would be a great scene and it would be immediately followed by a much slower, sorta boring development sequence.  These moments are rare but they did hurt the pace of the film for me.

Seriously, these two are just masters at comedic reactions.


Keanu has some minor problems that occasionally slow the story and comedy down but when this film is hitting all the right notes it is very funny and a whole lot of fun.  There are also some great performances in smaller roles in the film from the likes of Luis Guzmán, Will Forte and even Keanu Reeves himself and that only adds to the movie’s rich comedy flavor.  The film is ridiculous and silly and it’s what Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key do best.  I love their show and wasn’t surprised to find that I enjoyed this as well—hell, they even offer up some references to their old skits in this one and that was just some fun icing on a hilarious cake.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have a craving for cake.