Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Batman and Harley Quinn

***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! It's pretty impressive that the existence of this movie took away the embarrassment of the "Martha" scene from Batman v Superman.

Batman and Harley Quinn – 1 out of 5

I’ve been very vocal about my love of DC’s animated films.  I have some minor complaints about them that usual involve plots and stories getting rushed due to limited running lengths but, overall, I think they are consistently great.  However, there is always one major complaint I have with several of them and that is how they treat their female characters.  Comic book properties have a long history of treating the medium as a “Boys Only Club” and that resulted in female characters being boiled down to nothing but sexual objects.  Sure, a lot of them are heroes in their own right but their sexuality always seems to take precedent.  Usually, this comes in the form of pointless shots of their cleavage or behinds or figuring out needless reasons for getting them into no clothing or as little as possible.  I thought the misogyny in the adaptation of The Killing Joke was pretty bad but then came Batman and Harley Quinn to sink DC’s treatment of female characters to a new low.  Honestly, this is the worst animated film I’ve ever seen from them.

And with this, Gotham somehow ended up becoming more comic accurate
than this movie.

Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) have teamed up and are planning to stop humans from destroying plant life once and for all with a virus.  Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) decide to seek the help of Ivy’s friend Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch).  They believe she will offer some insight on her motives and where to find her.  Reluctantly, Quinn agrees but will they be enough to stop their plan and save the world?

I'm sure their plan also involves raiding the garden centers of local home
improvement stores and setting the flowers free.

While I hold that this film is the worst DC animated film I’ve ever watched—and I’m one of those comic nerds who thinks The Killing Joke is highly overrated so one would think that The Killing Joke would be my least favorite—but, despite this, there are some elements that I enjoyed.  For example, I loved Conroy and Lester reprising their roles as Batman and Nightwing.  In my opinion, Conroy is the top Batman of all the Batmans so, when I hear him in that distinctive voice, I’m all kinds of happy.  Additionally, I really liked the return to the visual style and animation of the old animated series.  Batman:  TAS was revolutionary for children’s cartoons because it proved that these shows weren’t just bright colors to distract kids but showed they can have style and depth to them.  Unfortunately, that’s where the positives end for me with this one.

There's a running gag about Nightwing's butt in the world of comics and yet objectifying
a male seems beneath a DC animated movie.

DC, when is this crap going to end?  It's 2017.
Women are more than just their body parts.
The worst part about this movie is, like I mentioned before, the way the female characters are treated.  Harley Quinn is a great character and when she’s just reduced to being T&A like so many female characters get treated within the comic world and in DC’s animated properties, the final product feels incredibly immature and just plain insulting.  It’s fine having a character that has sexual elements but this movie forces in so many needless sexual innuendos and sexual objectivity that it feels like this movie was made for prepubescent boys.   Which is distracting because, at times, this movie really wants you to believe that it is a mature version of Batman:  The Animated Series (even though almost any random episode of the show is far more mature than what this film farted out).

DC animated films think this is showing respect for women.

Speaking of fart…this movie really can’t keep a consistent tone.  It really wants you to believe it is an adult version of the old animated show but it does this through a teenage boy lens as it thinks objectifying the female form means adult.  Then the tone is further muddled up as the humor is basically fart jokes, Quinn making a gag about Nightwing having an erection and Batman literally shaming a character for being a closeted gay man (which was really weird to see in 2017).  

Batman gay shaming a character might have worked in--oh, who am I kidding?
That joke should never had a time when it worked.

Toilet humor can work if it fits the tone of the feature but for a movie that tries to act like it is for grown-ups and it has a three minute scene of Harley Quinn farting in the Batmobile (I’m not making that up) really feels strange and creates a feature that feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be.  Overall, the whole atmosphere and tone of this film feels like a thirteen year old boy would make and then try to act like he made something really witty and deep.  Basically, this movie feels like it was made for the DC fanboys who like to comment on articles about Marvel films and say that the MCU movies are for children and they’re big boys who don’t bother with that stuff.

The farting feels like a metaphor for DC shitting on how the legacy of
The Animated Series.

Finally, and this seems like the most minor complaint after the uneven tone and the rampant and, frankly, very outdated misogyny, I wasn’t a fan of Melissa Rauch as Harley Quinn.  Like any case where a character so quickly becomes defined by a single performer, there is a transition period where one must get used to a new face (or voice) coming in and taking over.  Arleen Sorkin pretty much made Harley Quinn in the animated series but has been portrayed excellently by others since then.  There’s an energy that is very unique to the character that is bubbly but also wicked and fun loving.  Rauch simply didn’t have this element.  Her delivery had no energy, no life and, too often, her voice would badly trail off at the end of a sentence.  This last element made it sound like Rauch wasn’t dedicated to the role and she was just doing it for the paycheck or out of a contractual obligation.  Harley being portrayed only as a thing for lustful desire is bad enough but when you combine it with a lethargic and very boring vocal deliverance, you have a recipe for disappointment.

Don't quit your day job, Rauch.  Seriously, don't because The Big Bang
seems to be treating you well.

Batman and Harley Quinn could have been a really cool addition to the pantheon of DC animated films.  It would have been cool to see a new adventure set in The Animated Series universe and having Harley team up with the Bats means the potential for some levity.  Instead, DC and Warner Bros. handled it with all the grace you would expect from an industry that is constantly being exposed for a bunch of woman grabbing, sexual harassing pervs.  Hopefully, they bounce back from this and we get something with a little more dignity and respect for the female characters in their next feature.

The Disaster Artist

***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! Oh hai,movie review!

The Disaster Artist – 5 out of 5

A few years after I graduated college in 2009, RiffTrax released their riffs on a strange little movie I never heard of called The Room.  Being a HUGE fan of RiffTrax, I bought the mp3 and located a copy of this strange movie.  I wasn’t prepared for what unique majesty laid before me.  I witnessed an absolutely atrocious film with bad acting, a nonsensical story and completely inept filmmaking but there was this undeniable charm to it.  I was captivated by it and the strange man that was behind it; Tommy Wiseau.  The film would end up playing a big part in my life as I would watch it with friends all the time, quote it in conversations and I would impersonate Wiseau at the drop of a hat.  I even had the pleasure of performing in Milwaukee version of RiffTrax and MST3K call Stand-Up Cinema where we riffed on this one and performed sketches based on it.  The Room spoke to me beyond just my love of bad films but as an odd pop culture icon that proves to not just be a movie but an experience to behold.  So, needless to say, I have been waiting very anxiously for the dramedy biopic about the two friends behind it called The Disaster Artist and it was better than I anticipated.

If anything, this movie has resulted in me doing my Tommy Wiseau impression
even more.

Based on the novel of the same name, this movie tells the tale of a young aspiring actor named Greg (Dave Franco) who is living in the San Francisco area in the late 90s.  One day, at one of his acting classes, he meets an eccentric enigma of a man named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco).  The two form an unlikely friendship and decide to go to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune.  After success eludes them, they decide to make their own film called The Room.  Eventually, the stress of the film and a relationship that Greg finds himself in with a woman named Amber (Alison Brie) ends up taking a toll on the two and they start to drift apart.  However, the two are soon reunited and their bond rekindled as they accidentally make movie magic and cement themselves into pop culture status when their feature is released into the world.

Oh hai, scene where Johnny says "hai, doggy."

The Disaster Artist is a complicated feature that is all about some very unique and one-of-a-kind things.  The Room is the mother of all bad movies and has a very individualized cult status and Tommy Wiseau is from an entirely different plane of existence.  With the status Wiseau’s masterpiece holds, this movie could have easily turned into an hour and a half long gag that is just punching down and mocking the work.  However, the finish product proved to be so much more.  Instead, the movie is a loving tribute to both Greg and Tommy and is a tale that is honoring what they’ve done for the world of entertainment and pop culture.  In all honesty, this movie was a love letter to their work.

One of the things I loved the most about this film is how it is essentially a love story for Greg and Tommy.   The story takes us on a dramatized version of how they met and how their friendship was forged.  The tale never shies away from the things like how Tommy’s jealousy caused tension between them and the feature doesn’t sugar coat that neither man is really that talented but the way the film showed their drive and determination and how they had this very one-of-a-kind love for one another was incredibly endearing.  The film still has plenty of humorous moments and gives the fan of The Room a lot of moments to say “Oh hai” to but the strongest part, for me, was the drama and how everything unfolds.

It's easy to shit on The Room but I really wish I had half the drive and ambition
that Wiseau had.

You can’t talk about this film and not bring up the performances.  The film has a great cast of supporting players that range from the big names like Melanie Griffith and Sharon Stone to very talented comedic players like Megan Mullally, Jason Mantzoukas, Bob Odenkirk, Nathan Fielder and Hannibal Buress.  Then you have the performers who felt tailor made to play counterparts to The Room’s cast like Zac Efron as Chris R (who just wants his money) and Josh Hutcherson as Denny or Danny or whatever his name is because it is said both ways in the original film.  There’s also a bunch of cameos from the likes of Judd Apatow, J.J. Abrams, Kevin Smith, Keegan-Michael Key, Danny McBride, Adam Scott and more.  There’s also Seth Rogen and Paul Scheer giving life to the crew behind the camera of The Room.  The point is there’s a lot of talent in this feature and they are all doing a fantastic job of bringing the story to life.  However, none are more important than the Franco boys.

None of them are looking at Lisa because she's so sexy.

First off, it’s cool to see Dave and James Franco sharing a movie together and, with having that, their natural chemistry as brothers is brought to the screen for Greg and Wiseau.  Both men do a really great job of bringing their real-life counterparts to life and really do an amazing job of making the characters sympathetic.  This last bit is a little difficult because it can be hard to separate art from the artist and, even though the Franco boys are playing fictionalized versions of Greg and Tommy, it’s hard not to think of both of them as Mark and Johnny, the wooden and weird dudes from The Room.  Both men really made each man fascinating to watch and helped make their journey all that more engaging.  Finally, James is doing a dynamite Tommy Wiseau impersonation.  It was so effortless to lose yourself in the story and to feel like you were watching the real Wiseau in action.

It's nice seeing family work together.

Any drawbacks I found in The Disaster Artist were superfluous at best.  For example, I didn’t care for the fake beard they had on Dave Franco.  It didn’t look real at all and, sadly, kinda looked like pubic hairs glued to his face.  Also, while I was impressed with how the story didn’t shy away from how Wiseau can be a bit of a terrible person, it failed at showing that same consideration with Greg.  As evident from the book itself as well as interviews with the man, Greg in real life can come off as equally petty and as shitty as Tommy Wiseau is.  The film sorta presented him as the level-headed one and sometimes as the victim.  However, neither of these complaints hurt the overall experience and the final product was still astounding.

Seriously, that pube beard was hard to look at on a giant screen.

For fans of The Room, The Disaster Artist illustrates a fun and dramatic insight to the oddity that is Tommy Wiseau and his unconventional friendship with Greg Sestero.  For those who have never heard of this wondrous exploration of bad filmmaking, The Disaster Artist is an exploration of how, no matter how much determination and drive a person has, a level of talent is still required but not necessary to make something memorable.  For everyone, The Disaster Artist is a loving tribute of a strange bit of pop culture that is one part love story and one part dramatic journey of ambition and incompetence.  It’s a beautiful and charming film about two men who aren’t these things and made something that is also not these things and yet somehow became just that.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

***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! Wilderpeople accidentally trampled the human equivalent of Simba's father.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – 5 out of 5

The last review I did was for Taika Waititi’s Boy and in that one I mentioned that after experiencing his majesty with Thor:  Ragnarok, I decided that I would go back and check out some of his other films that I hadn’t seen before.  We’re now moving on to the second of those two films and the one that had him desire to bring in Sam Neill for a hysterical cameo in the Marvel feature.  This one is his 2016 Hunt for the Wilderpeople.  This might be one of his best, in my opinion…of course, I say the same thing about Eagle vs Shark, Thor and What We Do in the Shadows.

Waititi has a cameo and a super epic beard in this one.

How can someone not feel a motherly bond with her?
Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a troublesome boy that has been shuffled around the foster system for a long time.  The service officer in charge of him; Paula (Rachel House), ends up bringing him to a remote home owned by Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill).  Ricky is resistant at first but eventually finds a home with the two; however, after Bella dies, the child welfare office sends a letter that they are coming to take him since Hec can’t raise him alone.  Upset, Ricky flees into the bush with his dog and decides to live as a wild man.  It’s not long before he gets lost and Hec finds him.  Unfortunately, Paula reports malicious rumors that Hec has kidnapped Ricky and is now on the run with him.  The two soon bond quickly and decide that the system is no place for Ricky.  Now the duo is on the run as they fight and try to flee the system.

Fight the power, Ricky!

Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is another shining example of Taika Waititi showing off what a masterful storyteller he is and how he can balance drama and comedy.  At the very core of the film, the story revolves around two characters that really have no emotional connection and it focuses on how a strong bond is eventually formed through very unconventional means.  When Ricky is first brought to the house, it’s Bella that he finds companionship and feels at home with while Hec is pretty abrasive towards him.  When Bella dies, Hec is quick to give up and let Ricky be taken away, so these two are far from friends as the journey begins.  The way they transform from their antagonistic behavior to one of respect, admiration and love is fluid, natural, and seamless.  For example, on paper it would seem strange that a man would go from being okay with the government taking a foster child away to being completely okay with the idea of accompanying the kid as they flee that same organization but the development of their relationship and the way the plot unfolds flows so naturally that this evolution of the relationship is never in question.

"*sniff*  This urine is still fresh.  They're not far."

I'm not even going to put a bad joke here because
I just like this screencap.
One very strong aspect that assists in their progression and development is the performances from Sam Neill and Julian Dennison.  Both of them perfectly encapsulate who exactly the character is and nothing about these core selves are lost as they transition from “we’re stuck together” in a defeated voice to “we’re stuck together” in a happy voice—they don’t change, they just clearly grow and learn.  Neill is a typical curmudgeon but one you kinda are charmed by and love anyway and Dennison is just hysterical as the troublemaker but with his heart in the right place Ricky.  On paper, their partnership could come off like the generic old guy begrudgingly mentoring the youth that, on the surface, annoys him but, deep down, you know he loves but in practice their relationship is far richer and the chemistry the two actors have is very palpable.  These two so effectively make the change and when they truly become partners in crime the fun is just getting started.  Neill and Dennison play off each other so well that they make the funny moments hysterical and the dramatic moments extra tender and sweet.

After you see dinosaurs move in herds it's kinda hard to get excited about
anything else.

The supporting cast of the film is also doing a tremendous job of bringing life to the world and helping up the stakes for Ricky and Hec and even one providing some support.  I really enjoyed Rachel House as the antagonistic government agent Paula.  House creates a great balance where she’s clearly the bad guy but she’s cartoonish enough so that her threat level isn’t overwhelming.  She’s also backed up by Oscar Kightley as her cop side-kick and she plays a great straight man to his buffoonery.  Finally, I really enjoyed seeing one of my personal favorite comedic players; Rhys Darby, show up as the eccentric Psycho Sam.  This character is definitely one of the film’s more over-the-top individuals but Darby is able to play him where he seems to fit the reality perfectly and is able to be commanding and funny but not selfishly devouring the scenery and like he’s desperate for laughs.  This character could have easily been something that was more grating and felt like a needless detour from the adventure that Hec and Ricky are on but, thanks to the charm and talents of Darby, the scenes with him are very memorable and very, very, very funny and entertaining.

The fact this movie has so much great facial hair and Rhys Darby is enough to
get it my perfect score.

As far as drawbacks are concerned, I found absolutely none in Hunt for the Wilderpeople.  Every aspect of this film, for me, just felt right and was pretty much perfect.  I loved the cast, the story is great, and director Taika Waititi expertly balances the heart and humor so that it never feels too silly or too heavy with its drama.  All in all, I found this movie to be a terrific and tender film with lots a charm and something that was very funny.