Batman vs Two-Face Review

Last year Batman appeared in 4 films, only 1 of which I liked. It was a throwback to the old 1966 Batman TV show called Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. I liked it because it had a sense of joy about it. I felt happy watching it and wasn’t put off like I was the other 3 films. This year so far I’ve seen 2 versions of Batman I really liked- Lego Batman and Justice League Dark. Both were well made and engrossing stories although different in tone. So now, before Justice League comes out, we have a sequel to last year’s best Batman film entitled Batman vs Two Face, and just like the last I enjoyed it very much. In fact, in many ways I think it is an improvement upon its predecessor, which is about all you can ask for in a sequel.

This version of Batman is of course campy and full of big pows and bams when they hit each other. Maybe it is nostalgia talking but I like that style. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

Adam West returns as Batman in his last role, which is neat to hear. It was worth doing this movie just so he could do that one more time! We also get to hear Burt Ward as Robin and Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Some people say that these characters sound old like their voice actors, but I don’t see it that way. They honestly sound like they have always sound to me. I think people have the image of them as old, so that makes the voice sound old but it doesn’t impact me.

But all that said, the real standout is William Shatner voicing Two-Face/Harvey Dent. He is fantastic doing both parts. It’s a shame this wasn’t discovered now because he could have been doing this part for years like Mark Hamill has done with the Joker. He was that good.

The script in Batman vs Two-Face is an improvement upon the original film. It is less episodic and a more of a compelling narrative. They sacrifice some of the jokes, but I was ok with that. They also limit the cameos, which were overflowing in the last film. Here it was really fun to see King Tutt and The Bookworm back with story arcs!

This is not a parody film like Lego Batman or the previous film. This is a Batman movie with a few jokes thrown in. They do a great job showing the two sides of Harvey Dent/Two-Face and the struggle that Batman has over his loyalty to Dent. Is he going to stay true to his friend or will he protect the city from Two-Face? It plays out in a compelling way.

If you like Batman and are open to different interpretations than I think you will really enjoy this film. The animation is good, it clips along nicely, it’s funny and is a great way to say goodbye to Adam West. I recommend it highly.

Content-wise it is fine for kids. There is a little bit of innuendo from Catwoman but nothing too bad.

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Loving Vincent Review

2017 has been a banner year for independent animated films. I wouldn’t be surprised if my top animated films ranking at the end of the year has 7 or more indies in the top 10. They have just been that good. All that said, now we get to one of my most anticipated indies of the year, Loving Vincent, and I must own to being a little disappointed. What the animators have accomplished is a great achievement but unfortunately it is not a great movie.

Let’s talk about the great accomplishment first. Loving Vincent is the first animated film to be made entirely with oil paintings. The creators gathered 115 different artists and made oil paintings for all 65,000 frames of the movie! It is a bold, audacious project and visually it pays off. This movie looks gorgeous and the movement of the animation really captures the feel of a Van Gogh painting. You can see in this trailer how amazing the animation is:

They also got a strong vocal cast for Loving Vincent including Chris O’Dowd and Saoirse Ronan.

The problem lies with the story. I’m fine with artistic movies with little plot like A Ghost Story or Knight of Cups; however, Loving Vincent isn’t that kind of art film. No, it has a plot. It’s just not a very good one.

Basically it is about a man named Armand who is assigned the task to deliver a letter to the estate of Vincent Van Gogh. The artist has died via suicide along with his brother Theo. As Armand tries to deliver his letter he begins to suspect maybe it wasn’t a suicide after all…

The problem is it doesn’t have much to say about life, death, suicide, art or anything else. It’s just Armand interviewing a bunch of people and them reciting back facts. If this was a live action film it would never see the light of day. There just isn’t enough meat on the bones here to enjoy the story.

The characters are also not very compelling. Armand is very bland and most of the other characters are kind of cold and cruel. Van Gogh isn’t even compelling because we get so little of him and it is mostly through cliches. This is a man who cut off his own ear and mailed it to someone. Certainly his story must have been more interesting than this?

Loving Vincent is certainly not a bad film and I recommend seeing it if only for the visuals. It’s just disappointing because it could have been great and it isn’t. But hey at least we got something fresh, new and beautiful to look at. I’ll take that deal any day.

Overall Grade- C

My Little Pony and Coco Trailer Response

We got 2 trailers today for upcoming animated films. They both have their pros and cons so I thought I would talk about them here on the blog and see what your thoughts are.

My Little Pony

The first is for My Little Pony: the Movie. This is of course based on the Friendship is Magic series and is a significant improvement from the first trailer and teaser.

What I like about this trailer is it feels like this film knows what it is and isn’t taking itself too seriously. It has a definite nostalgia vibe to it in the Saturday morning style of the animation, plot, and especially the villain. It’s like everything we love about the show but with a little more sparkles and colors to it. I am sure critics will be tough on it like they were Smurfs: the Lost Village, but I think it looks refreshing and fun. I like that they aren’t going overboard with the girl power and making it something that girls and boys can have fun with.

As far as concerns for the trailer I am a little worried they are focusing on Pinkie Pie too much. She has been a focus of the teaser and both trailers and while I enjoy her she can be a little screechy when over-used. I would much rather them focus on Twilight Sparkle or Rainbow Dash. AppleJack is my favorite of the Mane 6 but she is probably better used for comic relief. I also am not a big fan of the focus on the celebrity voices because this film should really be about the ponies. They are the true celebrity here and I hope that doesn’t get distracting.

I just want this to be a sweet, energetic movie for fans of the show of all types and I feel pretty good about where it is going.  What do you think of this trailer and the potential of the film?

COCO

The second trailer is for Pixar’s new film Coco. I am naturally excited for any Pixar film but I am starting to have some concerns about this one. Here is the latest trailer:

The strengths of this trailer are two-fold: the animation and the lovely message. We sometimes take Pixar’s amazing animation for granted but we really shouldn’t. I love the way afterworld sparkles with color and light and how likable all the character designs are. You just want to hug Miguel and his dog the moment you see him. I also think the message of the film is great. My religion places a lot of importance on connecting with our ancestors and honoring them so this theme is really lovely and important to explore.

Now for my concerns. I am hoping it is just trailers but both the main trailers for Coco have seemed tonally off. The first one had this strange narration that felt like something from the 90s. It didn’t feel part of a Mexican culture or style (no accent to the narrator) and it was frankly weird. Now here in this trailer they have a story that is focused on music and a character who dreams of playing music. This isn’t a background point but a key part of the story.

With that said, why on earth do they have Bittersweet Symphony playing in the background of the trailer? They have original songs for this movie. Why have we not heard any of them? One of them is written by Kristen Lopez of Frozen fame and we heard it at D23. It’s a good song. Why is that not accompanying this trailer? Why have we heard more music from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure than from Coco?

And if you are going to pick different music why on earth wouldn’t you pick something Mexican! Bittersweet Symphony isn’t even about a guitar player at least Kubo and the 2 Strings using My Guitar Gently Weeps makes a little bit more sense. Bittersweet is about a symphony!! There are no guitars in symphonies. It just makes no sense to me for the images of the trailer or the story and it makes the tone feel weird.  Why not use a Ricky Martin song or Shakira or something that felt a little bit relevant to the story!

Why are they hiding the music for Coco? Why aren’t they promoting it more? Make no mistake I think this will be a good film and I’m excited but I feel like Disney is really botching the marketing of this movie. I wish they put a tenth of the marketing in Coco that they put into Beauty and the Beast. There’s no way the music can be worse than that auto-tuned mess. Do kids even know Coco is coming out?

I just don’t get it! Am I nuts on this? What do you think of this trailer and the marketing for Coco?

Here’s a video I did on Coco trailer

Are We Pre-Judging Emoji Movie Too Much?

It’s no secret I am not the biggest fan of Sony Animation and their upcoming release The Emoji Movie looks like a dubious enterprise. It has on its surface all the trappings of a cheap attempt to monetize a trend while it’s still hot instead of doing something creative. It also feels very derivative of other movies like Wreck-it Ralph, Inside Out, Lego Movie and more.

However, today they released the opening sequence and it is very pun heavy but honestly it doesn’t look that bad.

Could The Emoji Movie be good? Is that possible? Maybe? It’s hard for me to get over a literal piece of  poo as a character in a movie. That’s the biggest stumbling block for me. Plus, their initial Meh trailer was one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen.

On the other hand, the last trailer wasn’t that bad and the idea of a world inside a phone could be clever? This is the year where I liked a movie with a character named Professor Poopypants and another movie about talking cars aging, so it could happen? They have a good voice cast and there was a bidding war over this script so somebody saw potential there. (Yes, there really was a bidding war over The Emoji Movie).

You also have this lovely image to give you nightmares:

What do you think about The Emoji Movie? Is there any hope for it or does it look like garbage? Are you planning on seeing it?  I guess at least this is the one movie where Sony product placement makes sense. I expect to see many a Sony phone throughout.

Pixar 38: Lou

I am going to see Cars 3 at least one more time before I write my review but I thought I would go ahead and write my thoughts about the short before it entitled Lou. This was a charming short that teaches a nice message for kids. I really enjoyed it.

I mean how can you not like that face?

The premise for Lou is very clever. Set in a playground at a school, Lou focuses on the lost and found box full of various misplaced items. These items include hoodies, rackets, mitts, baseballs and more. Through some kind of magic all of the items have combined together to make a creature called Lou.

I really liked the look of Lou and the way he flopped around as one cohesive unit while still keeping the individual items separate. It was very creative.  He kind of reminded me of a mixture of Telly and Elmo from Sesame Street. His eyes and mouth had the expressions of a Muppet and his body reminded me of how Hank from Finding Dory moved around the room.

Lou kind of takes ownership of the playground and picks up all the lost items after the kids leave. One day a boy named J.J. starts bullying the other kids and taking away their stuff (toys, backpacks etc).

I won’t give away the ending but Lou finds a way to get to the heart of the bully and help him realize what he is doing.

There is also some nice physical comedy between J.J and Lou that I enjoyed. I liked how the balls of Lou’s eyes bulged out when he was thrown about. It was a lot of fun.

Obviously the message of Lou is something many kids will be able to relate with. I certainly would have related to it very strongly. I liked also that they were able to teach J.J. a lesson without overly shaming him. He just sees what is the right thing to do and makes the correct choices.

Lou was directed by Dave Mullins and features the music by Christophe Beck of Frozen fame, which I enjoyed. I particularly liked how bubbly it was as we see Lou explore the playground and what is happening. You can see a little clip here:

It would have been very easy to make Lou a PSA and not a short but I think they straddled that line quite well. It’s funny, balanced and nuanced enough to work as a story, not just a message. Just Lou’s design and expressions are inventive enough to entertain me.

I don’t really have much to criticize about Lou. It’s not my favorite Pixar short but that’s a high bar to cross. This is sweet and a lot of fun with a nice message kids will love.

Overall Grade- B+

Now I will go off to see Cars 3 again!

Spark: A Space Tail Review

Did you know an animated film was released in over 1,000 US theaters last weekend? No it is not My Entire High School is Sinking In the Sea (which I highly recommend).  No it is Spark: A Space Tail. This is a film out of Korea and is the same studio that brought us The Nut Job…

That may sound like a sassy introductory paragraph but a side of me wants to be easy on Spark: A Space Tail. I see potential with it and other foreign CG films that I wish I could nurture and develop. Too many are quick to discount these smaller studio efforts as immediate garbage but I try to have an open mind. In fact, I really think if you could get some writers involved who know what works for an American palate they could be successful. Movies like Spark, Wild Life, Rock Dog and more have solid animation, voice acting but suffer from poorly developed scripts.

Spark is my least favorite out of those 3 films. I was hoping I would enjoy it like I enjoyed Ratchet and Clank (yep, I liked that film). Unfortunately it was not to be.

There are some positives to Spark: A Space Tail. First of all, I enjoyed the animation and the world building. It may not be on a Pixar level but it was bright and full of colors. I also liked the various alien designs and how they moved and flowed in unique ways.

I also thought the voice cast was solid featuring Jace Norman, Jessica Biel, Susan Sarandon, Patrick Stewart and Hillary Swank.

The problem with Spark is I frankly found it extremely boring. The story felt so rehashed from other films and nothing was compelling or drawing me into the story. This kind of space adventure should be fun and nostalgic but it wasn’t. I’ll be honest I fell asleep and not just my normal nods. This was full on sleep for 5 minutes or so…Nothing interesting was happening and the story doesn’t even get really started for an hour into the 90 minute movie. The villain was super lame and felt like a rip-off of Mojo Jojo from the Powerpuff Girls and was shouting most of the time. The teenage angst of Spark didn’t interest me and everything about the story was so predictable and boring.

I hope in the future studios try to make their films more appealing to an American audience if they want their work to take off.  In Spark: A Space Tail I didn’t care about the characters or what was going on and I don’t think kids will either. They will be bored along with their parents and start begging to watch Star Wars again instead and I wouldn’t blame them!

Still, I hope these smaller studios can figure things out. Start selecting better scripts and make the good movies I can see in their future. The potential is there!

Overall Grade- D

I’m Depressed About 2017 Animation

Since I started this blog in 2014 I have had a goal to see every animated film released in the year. For the most part this has been an awesome experience with even the bad films giving some context to help really appreciate the good.

But I’m seriously debating about whether I should reconsider my goal for 2017. 2016 has been a stellar year for animation with great films coming from big studios and indies alike.

2017 what are we getting…

Yes, I get it. Any movie can be good but a talking mafia baby movie? It just sounds so awful and the trailer was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s honestly reminding me of 9 Lives but less creative and the animation looks atrocious. It seems like an SNL skit of a bad movie come to life. It reminded me of the Jack and Jill trailer where you just sit baffled at how this actually is happening. I mean who saw Baby Geniuses and thought ‘we need that in 2017’ but make him a mob boss baby? And can we put that person in jail?

And what else do we have to look forward too? (heavy sarcasm in that sentence)

Well, really only 3 films right now. I am looking forward to Coco from Pixar. It’s a musical with a Day of the Dead theme and that has huge potential for creativity. (And yes they have done The Book of Life but I think if we have a million Christmas movies we can have more than one Day of the Dead movie).

I am also looking forward to Lego Batman as I loved The Lego Movie and the trailers were amazing.

The Breadwinner from the studio that brought us Song of the Sea has potential and My Little Pony could actually be a commercially successful 2D film and I really like the Friendship is Magic TV show.

I also don’t hate the Cars movies like some so Cars 3 could be good. I’m hoping it will be better than Cars 2, which I don’t hate but don’t love either. I mean it is kind of sad when Cars 3 is one of my more hopeful entries of the year…

So really I have Lego Batman, Coco and Breadwinner in the excited for camp. My Little Pony and Cars 3 in the ‘I hope it will be good’ camp. Not much to hang my hat on for the year…

That’s about all the good I have to say. Let’s go over some of the other gems that have me depressed. In addition to Boss Baby we have:

Blazing Samurai- which has a giant cats butt on the poster and from the team that brought us the recent bomb Max Steel..

Captain Underpants- yes the studio that once brought us Prince of Egypt has sunk to talking babies and a Captain Underpants movie. I’m depressed

Ferdinand- I don’t know if this will really happen in 2017. We haven’t seen any concept art or a poster or anything about it

Despicable Me 3- You guys know how much I dislike the minions and their yellow annoyingness all over everything. Now we get another entry in the highly overrated Despicable Me series

Emoji Movie: Express Yourself- Yes the horrors continue with the emoji movie. We have a character in a major studio animated film named Poop Daddy. Let that sink in for a second. Plus the female character Jailbreak is a complete copy of Lego Movie’s Wyldstyle

Lego Ninjago Movie- The short for this before Storks was completely forgettable and lame. It seriously lessened any enthusiasm I was feeling for this movie.

Nut Job 2- The original was horrible and so the fact this sequel is happening brings me even more into depression. And it was supposed to come out in 2016 which isn’t a good sign

Smurfs: the Lost Village- This has potential but I’m not a fan of Sony Animation in general and I hated the 2 recent live action films.

The Star- This is evidently a nativity movie but I don’t know much about it  I must admit. I guess it could be good.

So yeah, forgive me while I go into a corner and cry at what I have to look forward to in 2017…Sure there may be a few pleasant surprises in there but right now I am feeling extremely discouraged about it.

But then when Kubo and the 2 Strings makes 67 million and Ice Age 5 makes 404 million worldwide I guess we get the movies we deserve.

sad-mickey