8/16/17

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK - REVIEW


Released in early 2017, Justice League Dark was an animated feature based on the DC comics run by Peter Milligan following the likes of John Constantine, Zatanna and Deadman as they battle various demonic/magical beings with some help from Batman and the Justice League.

The prologue is surprisingly grim and more than earns the film's R rating as we see normal people in various cities panicking when they start seeing demons everywhere. They start killing others, even themselves thinking they're defeating monsters when, in fact, those turn out to only be hallucinations. The Justice League has an emergency meeting where they discuss the possible cause of all this and Batman's investigation leads him to John Constantine. The tone switches radically when the trench coat-wearing occultist and his magical pals enter the picture as we first meet Constantine (voiced by Matt Ryan) as he engages in a high-stakes poker game in Las Vegas with the Demons Three before a fight inevitably breaks out. Batman (Jason O'Mara) seeks out Zatanna (Camilla Luddington) to ask her questions about Constantine and, soon enough, everyone is gathered in the same place, ready to collaborate on a solution to the unexplained phenomenon that's been taking lives left and right. Don't expect to see a Justice League movie, this is very much about John Constantine and his team with Batman tagging along and other familiar faces showing up here and there.

There's maybe not much reason for Batman to even be in this story but the character does contribute a lot of cool moves during the action sequences, his seriousness is a welcome contrast to the infinitely more jokey Deadman and he represents the JLA so no real complaints there. The plot leads the team to one of Constantine's old friends, who is suffering from a magical cancer (don't ask), the forest where we find none other than Swamp Thing and finally to supervillains like Faust and Destiny. The intrigue works quite well, the characters are likeable and the animation is solid so Justice League Dark is, at the very least, a bit of fun. If you're not familiar with a lot of those characters, this film should make you want to learn more about them and dig deeper into the comics. As enjoyable as the action is and as amusing as our anti-heroes are, however, one would have liked to see an overall darker film in the vein of the aforementioned prologue. Characters do die and some of the fights get a bit rough but this is an overall pretty tame fantasy superhero adventure more akin to Doctor Strange than the Hellblazer comics. A last-minute re-cameo from Swamp Thing makes little sense and the ending is rather anti-climactic but the film itself is still perfectly watchable.

Justice League Dark won't go down as one of DC's finest animated features but it works fine as an introduction to the more occult side of the DC universe and as a one-off viewing. It's an entertaining John Constantine vehicle, Batman's in it and there's never a dull moment so not too bad overall.

Hit-and-miss.

LET'S PLAY BLOOD (DARK CARNIVAL)



The fourth part of my Blood Let's Play.


TASTIN'... CRYSTAL PEPSI



I finally get to try some good old Crystal Pepsi.

8/15/17

DUNKIRK - REVIEW


Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk is a WWII movie following several characters including soldiers, pilots and civilians as they try to survive during an evacuation in the North of France, just before German forces close in.

This story is told from different perspectives and periods of time as a British mariner sails a boat towards Dunkirk in order to help the Allied troops while a Spitfire pilot faces numerous potentially deadly challenges in the air and soldiers on the ground try everything they can to stay alive and make it home. The intensity of the expanding war is captured perfectly by showing the humanity and heroism involved alongside the pain and misery these soldiers face every single minute that goes by. No matter how flawed the main characters are, we still understand them and feel for them since none of what they're dealing with is their fault: they just happen to all be stuck in the grimmest mess. These are people who are so tired and beaten that they forget what they're fighting for and just focus on staying alive when things look particularly bleak. This movie refuses to throw big, corny speeches at us and it succeeds in conveying a lot of emotion with a minimum of dialog.

The potentially confusing structure works surprisingly well as it makes the film feel like one big action sequence with the build-up for each noteworthy event plus Hans Zimmer's relentless (and very good) score keeping us hooked throughout. It's refreshing to see a film skilfully avoid so many overused war movie clich├ęs and presenting a more effective and genuine alternative. We don't know much, or sometimes anything, about some of these character but we still root for them based on their actions and the fact it's easy to relate when you see the carnage that surrounds them and picture yourself in their shoes. The cast is excellent from the, once again, mostly faceless Tom Hardy to the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and newcomer Fionn Whitehead, who plays the candid lead. This is a visually impressive movie with beautiful yet subtle cinematography capturing every disaster in all their horror and panic without, thankfully, making the film feel like a big Hollywood blockbuster akin to the awful Pearl Harbor.

It's a relief to say that Christopher Nolan's gamble, to stray further from the sci-fi/action/mystery genres that made him a household name, has paid off. Dunkirk is easily one of the best movies of the year and it'll be a tough one to beat come Oscar season.

Masterpiece.

TOP 10 DUMBEST LUIGI LINES


Luigi proves he's not the sharpest tool in the plumber tool belt throughout the Super Mario Bros. movie. 

8/14/17

DUNKIRK - VLOG 14/08/17



I talk briefly about Christopher Nolan's latest: Dunkirk.

THE ROCKETEER - REVIEW


Director Joe Johnston brought The Rocketeer to life in this Disney film from 1991 starring Bill Campbell and Jennifer Connelly. While it was critically well received, it didn't earn quite enough at the box-office to guarantee a sequel but it's still seen as something of a cult gem.

Created in 1982 by comic-book writer/artist Dave Stevens, The Rocketeer is a homage to classic serial heroes: an all-American good guy with one special ability, fighting against cartoonishly evil villains. The ability in question being a jetpack which stunt pilot Cliff Secord (Campbell) finds with airplane mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin) when a bunch of gangsters steal it from Howard Hughes (Terry O'Quinn). Cliff uses the rocket pack to save people and fight back against those looking to harm him but this puts his girl Jenny Blake (Connelly) and others close to him in great danger. The main antagonist being Neville Sinclair, a popular Hollywood actor (played by a scene-stealing Timothy Dalton) with his own agenda to steal the rocket. Between the mob, Sinclair, the FBI and intimidating henchman Lothar (Tiny Ron Taylor), Cliff certainly has his hands full in this movie. The tone throughout is mostly upbeat and light-hearted but the film isn't without its darker moments so it definitely feels like it balances the wide-eyed naivety of some of the characters with the more sinister aspects of the story and its villains really well, far better than The Phantom managed.

There's really very little to dislike about The Rocketeer: the characters, including the bad guys, are likeable, the cinematography is beautiful, the action and special effects are well done and the story is genuinely compelling. This is a cool throwback superhero you warm up to quickly and want to see more of by the end of the film. There's an endearing quality to this adventure that should please fans of the Indiana Jones movies or even Dick Tracy, which was released only a year prior. Thinking about why this film works and The Phantom didn't, it's partly because this one nailed the right tone but also the writing is much sharper and funnier plus, let's be honest, The Rocketeer is not wearing a purple onesie. After this movie and Joe Johnston's background working on various George Lucas-helmed projects from Star Wars to Raiders Of The Lost Ark, it makes sense that the director would eventually take on Captain America in the 2011 Marvel feature. The Rocketeer may not be perfect with Connelly giving an occasionally wooden performance and the titular hero rarely getting the chance to truly show off how heroic he can be but overall this is a terrific superhero flick.

Most people remember The Rocketeer fondly and it's easy to see why: it looks fantastic, it's a lot of fun, everything about it is charming and although it can be tongue-in-cheek at times, it never becomes a joke. This is one proudly retro comic-book movie that's well worth seeking out.

Underrated gem.

8/13/17

STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT - REVIEW


With a unashamedly silly title like Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and a premise this corny, it's no wonder this Sylvester Stallone-starring comedy from 1992 was badly received by pretty much every critic. This looked like an obvious turkey and it's still seen as a complete joke by most.

The film sees cop Joe Bomowski (Stallone) get an impromptu visit from his overbearing, if well-meaning, mother (Estelle Getty). She quickly gets on his nerves as she gets involved in every aspect of his life, embarrassing him every step of the way. When Joe's mother becomes a witness to a murder, Joe is soon forced to allow her to be a part of the investigation. This is one of those broad comedies that's predictable from the very first minute: right off the bat, you know that, by the end, Joe will learn a valuable lesson from his initially irritating mother and you know his shaky relationship with JoBeth Williams' Lieutenant will be fixed. On the surface, this is every bit the awful film it appears to be, evoking the likes of Junior, Mr Nanny, The Tooth Fairy or The Pacifier where action heroes are turned into inoffensive idiots in family-friendly, straight-to-video fare. Indeed, Sylvester Stallone doesn't look all that proud to be in this movie and the actor famously does not look back fondly on this particular role. But most critics have failed to ask key questions in regards to this film or others like it: what is this movie trying to do and does it do it well?

It's very clear from the get-go that this film was never aiming to be anything but a cheesy family comedy with a few cheap laughs and some action thrown in. It always has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and I would argue that, in fact, it does manage to achieve exactly what it set out to. This is about as light-hearted and harmless as a movie can get and everything about it from the poster to the title makes this perfectly clear so if you start watching it expecting a typical Stallone vehicle like a dark thriller or an action-packed blockbuster then you're setting yourself up for disappointment, to say the least. Truth is, as far as family comedies go, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot is perfectly fine: the cast is solid, the script has its share of funny moments, it's never annoying and there are even a few action beats, which is more than I can say for the unfunny and criminally dull Junior. This is the kind of movie you watch with your parents or grand-parents on Christmas Day while chewing on chocolate, it's certainly not another Rocky or Rambo and it never pretends to be so Siskel & Ebert may have panned it without mercy but, frankly, they completely missed the point.

This movie is just as cheesy, silly and unambitious as it looks but who's to say that every movie needs to be deep and serious? Sometimes you just want to sit back, turn your brain off and watch a completely safe and goofy little flick you'll forget about almost instantly. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot may be the fast-food of family movies but it actually doesn't taste all that bad.

Harmless fun.

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