Film Review: The Lego Batman Movie

I was a massive fan of The Lego Movie and one of the many good things about it was the treatment of Batman (Will Arnett), who they transformed into a cocky, self absorbed show off. When it was announced that he’d be getting a solo run out, it instantly joined the list of movies I was looking forward to and yesterday MWF and I went along with a friend to check it out.

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The film kicks off with the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) leading a team of Gotham’s villains in a daring attempt to seize control of the city by threatening with a gigantic bomb. Unfortunately for the Clown Prince of Crime, Batman arrives just in time and makes short work of his associates. As the duo face off the Joker is hurt to discover that Batman doesn’t regard him as special or his archenemy, announcing he doesn’t care.

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Tears of a Clown

Batman saves the day and all is good, however, it is revealed that when he returns to Wayne Manor he is lonely and bored. His trusty butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) is concerned that he has no life beyond Batman, but he refuses to acknowledge this. Bruce—0s0A\\\ attends the retirement party of Jim Gordon, where his replacement is to be announced. The replacement is Jim’s daughter, Barbara (Rosario Dawson), who Bruce is attracted to. Distracted by Barbara’s beauty Bruce agrees to adopt nerdy orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera).

Barbara announces a bold new plan for Gotham and her desire for Batman to work with the police, and highlighting that despite his efforts Gotham is still the worst city for crime. Joker and Co. attack but Joker then surrenders, much to the suspicion of Batman and Barbara. Joker and the other villains are imprisoned, and the city celebrates.

With nothing to do Batman is bored and sad, resisting Alfred’s urging to spend time with Dick and act as his father figure. Batman continues to spy on Joker and decides that the only way to be safe is to send Joker to the Phantom Zone, where the universe’s worst villains are imprisoned. Recruiting Dick as his sidekick, and giving him an old colourful costume the duo steal a device to send people to the Phantom Zone from Superman (Channing Tatum), who Batman discovers is throwing a party for all the superheroes that he was not invited to.

They send Joker to the Phantom Zone, but Barbara imprisons them. Unfortunately, this has played into the Joker’s plans and he breaks out with several other villains to get revenge on Batman and Gotham.

Batman reluctantly agrees to allow Barbara, Dick and Alfred to help him, but can they triumph and can he resist his urge to go it alone? And will he be able to admit to himself that his insistence on working alone comes from his fear of losing people again?

This is an incredibly daft and fun movie which works because of the central character, with Batman continuing to be a swaggering, boastful jerk who has to face up to his failings and feelings. It’s a big twist on the traditional way the Dark Knight is portrayed and the egomaniac is hugely entertaining, especially when he is repeatedly outwitted or out of his depth.

This happens often with Barbara who is a clever, confident woman who has his number from the jump and provides sensible advice he routinely ignores. As the movie unfolds he is forced to accept that teamwork is key and slowly acknowledges the help the others provide him with.

The other supporting players work well, especially the irritatingly cheery Dick Grayson who slowly breaks down Batman’s stern exterior.

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The Dynamic Duo

The storyline of the Joker’s rejection and his relationship with Batman is quite well done, playing it as almost a warped romance, with Joker believing it was a deeper connection and Batman brushing it off saying that he “likes to fight around”. The Joker’s plan is pretty clever and allows a whole host of cameos from different villains in the final act, with King Kong, Voldemort, Daleks, Gremlins and the Wicked Witch of the West among others.

The action is fact paced and largely comical, with characters making the sounds of the guns they use and the Lego world allowing for inventive chaos. Batman, as a master builder, continues to build massive, crazy contraptions and visually it is stunning.

It’s also a delight for geeks as it’s rammed with little gags and references. The beginning and end poke fun at the seriousness of some superhero movies, and there are nods to the many different incarnations of the characters (including a brief clip of Adam West in action). The Joker’s posse includes a host of Gotham’s villains including lesser, dafter enemies and there are nods to the comic book conventions, especially how inept the Gotham police are and one hostage’s relaxed response to being confronted by the Joker. It’s quite clever and funny, but I did wonder how well it would play for kids as a lot of it is very ironic and pokes fun at the character and the world.

Plot wise it’s quite straight forward, and the issues of teamwork, family and Batman accepting help from others and letting people in hardly groundbreaking. It’s not quite as good as The Lego Movie in terms of sheer manic energy, but it’s still a very solid comedy adventure and keeps moving at a decent pace. But it feels like this is a good place to leave the block Batman, as any more would overplay the joke.

Verdict: Consistently funny and loaded with injokes, this is an extremely entertaining movie. Daft in places it, it works well as a fast paced romp. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out ofthe Shadows

Having been pleasantly surprised by 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, MWF and I decided to check out this sequel.

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It’s been a couple of years since the heroes in a half shell saved New York from Shredder (Brian Tee). However, to maintain their secret the credit has gone to Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett), who has become a celebrity, which irks them slightly.

Their reporter friend April O’Neill (Megan Fox) finds a link between a scientist, Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and the Foot Clan and that there is a plan afoot to break Shredder out while he is being transported. The Turtles try to stop the ambush, but Shredder is teleported out.

Prisons officer Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) is knocked out by the other escapees Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Sheamus respectively). Later, his version of events is not believed and he sets out to bring them to justice.

Shredder it turns out was transported to another dimension where he meets an alien named Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) who enlists his help in gathering pieces of a device that will enable his warship to teleport to Earth and they will rule the world together (cue evil laugh). To aid Shredder against the Turtles Krang gives him a substance which can make supersoldiers, unleashing the animal within.

This is used to make Bepop and Rocksteady into animal-human mutants. April, witnessing their transformation, steals the substance and flees, pursued by ninjas. Casey Jones, who has tracked the criminal duo via their phone rescues her and meets the Turtles, and realising they have similar goals they unite.

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April in trouble

Donatello discovers that the substance could turn them human, enabling them to live normal lives which causes tension among the brothers. Can they get over their difficulties and stop Shredder before Krang’s ship arrives?

Here’s the thing, I remember Krang from the kids show back in the day, and he kinda worked there but he is the weak spot here. While his voice is done well and his ship impressive, there are a few missteps. Firstly, Shredder just blindly agrees to team up far too quickly and in order to get cheap gross gags they have Krang leave his robot body a lot, which kinda makes having it pointless.

Aside from this the movie works, being quite dumb but very entertaining. This is because of some crazy OTT action sequences, plenty of visual gags and a constant stream of quips, particularly from Noel Fisher’s Michelangelo, who is comedy gold the most likeable of the foursome his goofball antics are bound to be popular with kids.

His desire for a normal life and to go above ground is quite well handled, especially when he reacts to a negative response from people they encounter. The argument over whether they should stay as they are or transform is an interesting touch, even if the outcome is obvious early on (Don’t hold your breath for Teenage Ninja Humans, folks).

Personally my favourite is Raphael, the group’s hulking badass and the conflict between him and Leonardo is handled well, with fault in both sides and the group’s leader losing his way, even if the theme of teamwork and embracing all the members’ differences feels a bit tired.

The human performances are simple, underwritten stuff and largely dull, with the exception being Will Arnett who is reliably funny as Fenwick, playing the vain, cowardly character with real humour.

Amell does well as Casey Jones and is likeable, even if the role is rather simple- a dumb, but well meaning, jock.

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Megan Fox is never stretched and is subject to a lingering, voyeuristic shot which is a little sleazy for what is a kid’s film.

The weakest is Tyler Perry as Stockman, who just plays every nerdy stereotype he can think of.

I liked the introduction of Bepop and Rocksteady as the two meatheads. They look kinda good and are entertaining and provide the Turtles with a fair fight (the Foot clan ninjas are rather easily dispatched) so this at least changes things up.

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And a sequence aboard a plane is capped by a hilarious miscalculation by the villains, which the others respond to brilliantly.

While it has flaws and treads a lot of the same ground as the first, it somehow works because the pace never lets up and it embraces it’s goofy, cheesy roots. The action sequences are well handled and I found myself laughing a lot, and while it’s dumb and clichéd, you don’t really expect more from the Turtles and this is a genuinely entertaining movie.

But perhaps this is where we should leave it? A third might be a bridge too far.

Verdict: Loud and dumb, but very fun, carried off well by the speed at which it develops and the central characters. The new villains introduced are a mixed bag, but on the whole the movie works as a goofy blockbuster. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Lego Movie

I actually saw this a while ago and planned to review it sooner, but it kept getting pushed back for different reasons, but I wanted to get the review in before the end of 2014 and the yearly Top 10 movies list.

There have been a couple of games based on toys and most have been lacklustre (I enjoyed the first Transformers movie, but the sequels were woeful and Battleship was just terrible), luckily there’s this movie to stand as the best example of the genre. It’s quite fitting that a movie based on Lego, a toy all about creativity and possibilities should provide a movie that crackles with imagination.

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The basic plot of a regular Joe having to realize their potential is standard fare, but it’s where the movie goes with it that shows genuine imagination, wit and ambition.

The movie follows Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), a cheerful, dim-witted Lego man who lives a normal day-to-day life following the instructions that he’s provided with and never really thinking for himself. All seems good for Emmet, but one night he gets sucked into a rebel plan who don’t like that President Business (Will Ferrell), plans to use a weapon called the Kragle to stop the Lego world being different and inventive.

Emmet

Emmet

Emmet touches the “Piece of Resistance” a brick that grants the owner, the prophesied “the Special”, the power to stop the Kragle. The Piece was hunted by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), an ass-kicking master builder who works for Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), who made the prophecy.

Wyldstyle kicking ass

Wyldstyle kicking ass

Wyldstyle is frustrated by Emmet’s stupidity and lack of imagination, and they doubt whether he is actually the Special. Aided by Wyldstyle’s boyfriend, Batman (Will Arnett) they travel across different Lego worlds and try to figure out how they can stop Lord Business from his evil plan, building to a climactic showdown.

I totally dug this movie, which is jam packed with wonderful graphics and a wealth of gags throughout. It’s a kids movie that truly works on two levels, with younger viewers loving the story and the visuals, but lots of jokes that might go over their head, the best example of this being the decision to have Will Arnett’s Batman being a bit of a douche, and the scene where he plays his band’s demo is a delight.

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The voice cast across the board are fantastic, especially Chris Pratt as the clueless Emmet, with this and Guardians of the Galaxy this year, and Jursassic World coming soon, Pratt seems to have arrived in a big way, and here he is on sensational form, with his vocal skills really bringing Emmet to life.

Morgan Freeman does his usual voice of wisdom thing as Vitruvius, and they have fun with this, especially when he makes his opening prophecy.

Freeman as Vitruvius

Freeman as Vitruvius

The movie makes little jokes about Lego’s history, with cameos from Lego’s Star Wars line and the plot having a slight dig at those Lego fans who just build once and keep them pristine, thanks to the live action section (also featuring Will Ferrell). The live action sequence is a bit cliche, but by that time the movie had built up such a feeling of good will in me I went for it.

From the start to the finish I was utterly charmed and it had me chuckling consistently, especially at daft gags like Liam Neeson’s split personality character Bad Cop/Good Cop. It’s a cheerful, vibrant and engaging movie that will work for all ages and is an utter gem.

Bad Cop/Good Cop

Bad Cop/Good Cop

One word of warning though, the cheesy song “Everything Is Awesome” from the movie will lodge in your head for a long time after, and recur frequently.

Verdict: An utter delight of a movie, filled to the brim with quality gags and strong vocal performances. It’s a fast based, fun and inventive movie and easily one of the better animated movies of recent years. Delightful. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

When I was a kid I loved the cartoon Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (as it was known here in the UK), I collected the toys, I played at being a ninja with my friends, I had a Donatello cake at my birthday party (despite Raphael being my favourite), I was a massive fan and eagerly watched the old movies, which now look terribly dated and badly done. I of course grew out of the Turtles and moved on to other stuff, but whenever they’ve been revamped I’ve had look in, with mixed reviews (the later cartoon series was pretty boss, but the live action show and the CGI movie from 2007 were distinctly lacklustre) .

So I was curious that they were rebooting it, although the presence of Michael Bay made me skeptical. Surprisingly the movie is rather enjoyable and lots of dumb fun.

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A lot has stayed the same- April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a TV reporter who’s stuck covering the dull, frothy “and finally…” stories with cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett), but wants to pursue more serious news like the mysterious Foot Clan who are taking over New York. Tipped off she witnesses a vigilante attack and stop a Foot robbery, but is unable to get enough evidence.

When the Foot Clan try to draw out the vigilante April witnesses four attackers take them out and follow, capturing a photo of the foursome who turn out to be giant ninja turtles. She gets a photo of them and realizes that they are the same turtles her father used in his lab research into a revolutionary mutagen. She visits his former partner, Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who explains that the mutagen was a cure-all and that he thought all the samples had been lost.

Meanwhile the four turtles arrive back at their base where their sensei Splinter (voiced by Tony Shaloub) punishes them for going above ground, however, when they mention April’s name he sends them to find her. April is brought back to their sewer base and Splinter explains their connected history. April saved Splinter and the turtles from the lab fire her father started after discovering that Sacks was in league with the Foot Clan’s leader Shredder (Tohuru Masamune), to release a virus and then use the mutagen to save the day and get power and money.

Exposition time: Splinter explains it all

Exposition time: Splinter explains it all

The Foot Clan have tracked April and attack, with the heavily armoured Shredder seriously wounding Splinter and Leonardo, Donatello and Michelangelo all being forced to surrender to spare him. Raphael is believed to have died and April is hidden before they blow up the base. Raphael (Alan Ritchson) has survived and with April and a reluctant Fenwick they set off to rescue his brotherS and stop Sacks and Shredder’s plans.

Can they rescue Raphael’s brothers? Will they be in time to stop Sacks’ diabolical plan? And just how long until Mickey’s flirting with April becomes seriously creepy and leaves you wondering about the dynamics of mutant turtle and human crossbreeding?

Here’s the thing, this movie is dumb in lots of ways. Firstly, there’s the fact that as soon as Fichtner appears on screen as Sacks you know he’s dodgy, because, well, it’s William Fichtner, he looks suspicious at all times. It’s so obvious that the reveal of his evil alliance can only be a shock to the particularly dim witted.

Would you trust this man?

Would you trust this man?

And Shredder’s new robotic armour just feels a little too Transformers-y I get why it’s been done, to make a 4-on-1 fight seem more balanced, but Meka-Shredder doesn’t really work for me.

 

Meka-Shredder

Meka-Shredder

There are other flaws too, changing the origin story to make April a vital part of the Turtles history just feels a little too convenient and unnecessary. Also, April is a bit of a dull character. We see her driven to be a success and find the truth, but she shows very little of the grit that she’d require and for most of the part she’s just there to run around and help a little. Sure, they try and make her a strong female character by having her prove vital to stopping the plan at the end (oh, sorry, is that a spoiler, that the Turtles win?) but her character is so flimsy and underwritten that it’s hard to care.

Megan Fox does okay with what she’s given but it’s not really a performance which will stick with you or win many fans.

That being said, it is fun, the action sequences are done fairly well and the film is loaded with laughs, mainly coming from the always entertaining Arnett or the wisecracking Turtles. Best among these is goofball Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), who quips his way throughout proceedings and who’s lovably dorky antics ensure you warm to him far more than the human players.

The rest of the turtles fall into their traditional roles- Raphael is the gruff, loner of the group, Leonardo (voiced by Johnny Knoxville) is the noble leader and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) is the geeky tech genius. All are done rather well and the design on them is quite good, especially in changing each character’s attire to reflect their personality a bit more.

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The turtles are just as likable as when I was a kid and today’s kids should like their jokey dialogue and goofy physical humour, and they are the film’s strongest asset. Sure, it’s light on any real drama and it’s ridiculously overblown in places, but as Fenwick tells April, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of froth.

Verdict: It won’t change your life and it’s a tad predictable, but this is still a fun, goofy action movie which is carried by the wisecracking, dorky antics of the Turtles and should win over a new generation of fans for the franchise. 6.5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.