Monday, August 14, 2017

Batman and Harley Quinn review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
(From left to right) Harley Quinn, Batman, and Nightwing in Batman and Harley Quinn

            The Caped Crusader is back in the latest animated feature film based on the beloved DC Comics Batman series, Batman and Harley Quinn. Like last year’s Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, the film was given a one-night theatrical presentation through Fathom Events followed by a digital release the day after and then a Blu-Ray and DVD release.
            I wasn’t super hyped about this one to be honest compared to The Killing Joke because when The Killing Joke movie was first announced I was on like an Avengers high and could not wait to see that movie. But still, it’s Batman how could I miss it? So, I went to one of my local theaters showing it and gave it a watch…and it really surpassed my expectations.
            It’s an animated movie in the style of Batman: The Animated Series with beloved voice actors, Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester reprising their roles as Batman and Nightwing, I was expecting something really serious but once in a while some moments of comedy added in because of Harley Quinn. To me, this is pretty much the complete opposite of the infamous Batman & Robin and manages to encompass everything that made Batman so great whether comics, TV, or movies, add in some exciting action and a surprisingly decent sense of humor and you get a very fun Batman movie.
            From the dark and gritty Tim Burton movie and animated series to the quirky and campy 1960s Adam West TV show, this is pretty much everything Batman & Robin tried to combine together and completely backfired and it shows that sometimes animation succeeds over Bat Credit Cards. I was very impressed at how funny this movie is and they even throw in a reference involving the comic sound effects from the Adam West show, and Joker’s not even in this picture.
            The film follows Poison Ivy (voiced by Paget Brewster-Criminal Minds, The Venture Bros., Grandfathered) and Floronic Man (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson-Family Guy, Lilo & Stitch, Rick and Morty) embarking on an ecological quest to save the planet but unfortunately eliminate most of humanity as a result. To stop them Batman and Nightwing must form an unlikely partnership with one of their old foes, the Joker’s former henchwoman, Harley Quinn (voiced by Melissa Rauch-The Big Bang Theory, Scooby-Doo and the Beach Beastie, Ice Age: Collision Course) who happens to be Ivy’s BFF and frequent partner-in-crime.
            However, Batman’s patience is put to the ultimate test by the unpredictable and untrustworthy Harley in an onslaught of chaos and anarchy the dynamic duo face during their bumpy road trip. Knowing Harley, she is definitely a trickster, makes sense because her former boss was the Clown Prince of Crime himself, so can she really be trusted?
            Overall, Batman and Harley Quinn is a fun movie to watch that satisfies Batman fans of all types. Whether you’re a fan of the darker Tim Burton/Christopher Nolan and animated series tone or the light and silly Adam West tone, this movie has you covered, though the plot itself is pretty generic the contents inside of it is where the film truly shines.
            For the most part, the movie retains its dark tone from Batman: The Animated Series but then it goes into silly and humorous territory and it strangely works. From Harley Quinn singing a karaoke song in a bar to Batman and Nightwing fighting a bunch of drunk guys in said bar Adam West style as previously mentioned.
            The voice acting is solid, Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester just doing their usual shtick since the early 90s and still amazing and Kevin Michael Richardson’s voice alone is always welcome to hear no matter what he’s in. At first, I was disappointed that Tara Strong who was pretty much iconic because of her voice as Harley Quinn didn’t voice her in this film, but I was quite impressed by Melissa Rauch’s take on this psychotic henchwoman and it’s clear that she researched Strong’s work as the character to bring the same amount of chaos and fun to a great character.
            My only real issue with the movie is its film rating which isn’t a bad thing but I feel this movie is a really light PG-13 movie. There’s little to no intense violence and some sexual moments but nothing extreme, I’d say it’s about on par with The Mask which is also PG-13 but not for extreme violence but because of some sex innuendos, definitely a better Batman movie to show your kids instead of The Killing Joke that’s for sure.

            Batman and Harley Quinn is a fun DC animated film on its own but an even greater tribute to the Batman character. The film finds the perfect midpoint between Adam West camp and traditional dark and gritty and in both categories, succeed, if you’re a Batman fan this is one not to miss.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: * ½ out of 4
Surly and the gang are back in The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

            Comedy superstar, Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Blades of Glory, The Lego Movie) is back as the voice of Surly the squirrel in the sequel to the 2014 animated film, The Nut Job…a movie that critics certainly ripped apart but was a modest success with the kids. Apparently, that was enough to warrant a sequel, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, one of the worst sequel titles to a movie I’ve seen in a long time and I’ve seen the ‘Squeakquels”.
            Were people asking for this? Was The Nut Job seriously so sacred that the story had to continue? No, I got it, this movie was created by people with the mindset of the evil mayor from this movie and it exists solely for making money with very little effort thrown in, aside from the cartoony animation and voice talent.
            After the nut shop from the last movie unexpectedly exploded, Surly and the park animals must relocate their home and regain their instincts to find food. They discover a plot by the evil mayor of Oakton City (voiced by Bobby Moynihan-Saturday Night Live, Monsters University, The Secret Life of Pets) to bulldoze their old home, Liberty Park and replace it with a dangerous and extremely cheap amusement park.
            So, it’s up to Surly, Andie (voiced by Katherine Heigl-Roswell, Grey’s Anatomy, State of Affairs), Buddy the rat (voiced by Tom Kenny-SpongeBob Squarepants, The Powerpuff Girls, Adventure Time), Precious the pug (voiced by Maya Rudolph-Away We Go, Bridesmaids, The Angry Birds Movie), Mole (voiced by Jeff Dunham-The Tonight Show, Comedy Central Presents, The Jeff Dunham Show), Jimmy the groundhog (voiced by Gabriel Iglesias-The Emperor’s New School, Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand Up Revolution, The Fluffy Movie), Johnny the groundhog (voiced by Sebastian Maniscalco-The Jay Leno Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee), Jamie the groundhog (voiced by Keri Wahlgren-Gravity Falls, Planes: Fire & Rescue, Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast), and a group of cute but deadly mice led by Mr. Feng (voiced by Jackie Chan-Operation Condor, The Forbidden Kingdom, Kung Fu Panda trilogy) that the animals befriend to fight for their home and foil the mayor’s plan before the park is demolished.
            The film also features the voices of Isabela Moner (100 Things to Do Before High School, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, Transformers: The Last Knight) as the mayor’s spoiled daughter, Heather, Peter Stormare (The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Minority Report, John Wick: Chapter 2) as deranged animal control officer, Gunther, Robert Tinkler (Sailor Moon, Bakugan: New Vestroia, Inspector Gadget (2015)) as a mouse named Redline, Laraine Newman (Saturday Night Live, As Told by Ginger, Avatar: The Last Airbender) as Daredevil Chipmunk, the film’s producer, Bob Barlen (Escape from Planet Earth) as Handsome Mouse, and voice actors, Jess Harnell (Animaniacs, Crash Bandicoot, Transformers 1-3 and 5) and Fred Tatasciore (Avatar: The Last Airbender, Wander Over Yonder, Star VS the Forces of Evil) as two of the animal control officers.
            Overall, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature is a waste of time unless you’re a little kid who will laugh at anything. Which is more than what I could say about The Emoji Movie where I would recommend that movie to no one.
            There’s at least an attempt to put effort into this movie even if it backfires severely, the animation is colorful and energetic, the voice acting is decent, and it has a few attempts at comedy and some of them came close to actually working. Specifically, the scenes involving the spoiled daughter, Heather, I don’t know what it is about animated kids’ movies but whenever a child is depicted as this psychotic and aggressive little brat, I always find it amusing and if done well hilarious which is pretty much the highlight of the 1997 animated movie, Cats Don’t Dance for me where the movie overall is decent but the child character is the best thing in the movie, this however is a terrible movie but she was probably the best thing here.
            Unfortunately, Heather wasn’t enough to save the movie from its unoriginal and predictable plot, as the movie was playing I was able to predict exactly where it was going and most of the time it did not disappoint in that regard. It’s one of those “Save the Park and Animals” type movies with the big bad government or corporation trying to bulldoze a landmark, park, or wildlife area for corporate greed with a lazy environmental message thrown in…Yeah, it was old when Hey Arnold and The Muppets did it…and the concept killed itself when Norm of the North did it.

            I can’t really say there’s anything bad in this movie for kids, to the film’s credit it’ll at least keep them busy and possibly satisfied, and despite having a forced environmental message it might open their eyes about keeping animal habitats safe. It’s strictly a kids only movie and nothing more, drop your children off to see it while you go see something else because there really isn’t anything in here for parents, it’s better than The Emoji Movie but still not worthy of family outing material.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Annabelle: Creation review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Annabelle the doll is back to reign more terror in Annabelle: Creation

            A prequel to a prequel to The Conjuring…and somehow it worked! If there was one movie I was more concerned about than The Conjuring 2 last year it would be Annabelle: Creation, a prequel to the 2014 film, Annabelle which was a prequel to James Wan’s critical and commercial horror hit, The Conjuring.
            The first Annabelle while financially successful was a critical disappointment and a lousy way to follow-up The Conjuring. The film had its moments of creative scares but most of them came off as predictable and lacked the suspense and effective sound and production design of the first movie, it was pretty much a horror movie cash-grab and nothing more.
            And now we have Annabelle: Creation, a prequel to the prequel and after a strike with the first movie this is the unexpected homerun much like what Ouija: Origin of Evil was like for Ouija. The film is directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) who gave us last year’s horror hit, Lights Out, and produced by The Conjuring director, James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring 1 and 2, Furious 7) who knock it out of the park with a horror movie prequel that probably shouldn’t have been that good to begin with.
            The film follows a couple who are grieving over the death of their daughter after a tragic car accident taking in girls from a local orphanage. But when a disabled girl named Janice (Talitha Bateman-The 5th Wave, So B. It, Geostorm) goes into the room of the couple’s deceased daughter one night, she unintentionally sets free the demented doll named Annabelle and the demon inside the doll possesses her.
            And then all the frights you’d expect occur from objects flying around, flickering lights, loud noises, and sudden jump scares. In hopes of getting Janice back her best friend, Linda (Lulu Wilson-The Millers, Inside Amy Schumer, Ouija: Origin of Evil) and a nun and the caretaker for the girls named Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman-The Bridge, Narcos, Spectre) must go through religious practices and disposing of the doll to compel the demon back to where it came from.
            The film also stars Anthony LaPaglia (Lantana, Without a Trace, Balibo) as Samuel Mullins, Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings 2 and 3, Flight of the Phoenix, War of the Worlds (2005)) as Esther Mullins, Philippa Coulthard (K-9, After the Dark, Secrets and Lies) as Nancy, Grace Fulton (JAG, Ghost Whisperer, Revenge) as Carol, Adam Bartley (Longmire, NCIS: Los Angeles, This is Us) as Officer Fuller, and Brian Howe (Déjà vu, The Pursuit of Happyness, Gran Torino) as Pete Higgins.
            Overall, Annabelle: Creation literally fixes the “Sins” of the past and delivers an effective horror movie about a creepy doll and the terror it brings. A genre of horror that’s been pretty much dead due to the awful Chucky sequels, but thanks to a director and producer that know how to make a scary movie, some impressive production design, and some eerie sound design they made a good prequel to a bad prequel to a great horror movie.
            The movie doesn’t rely on gore that much and whenever it’s used they never make it flashy or exploit it like mad. No, every use of gore in this movie feels natural and adds more to the terror and suspense of the current circumstance.
            That’s one of the things I applaud about the Conjuring movies as a whole, they stray away from typical slasher/gore-fest material and instead offers a chilling, atmospheric scary flick that in my opinion is far more effective than just watching a bunch of blood and flesh splash on the floor for an hour and a half.
            Story wise the movie’s not very original, if you’ve ever seen The Exorcist, The Haunting, or Hell even the first two Conjuring movies then you pretty much already know what you’re getting into. Sure, it leads to scares that are predictable and obvious but they’re in a movie balanced with plenty of new shockers and varieties of old scare tricks that you really don’t care.
            Most of the acting is passable but the person who really sells this movie is Talitha Bateman as Janice who follows in the footsteps of the little girls from The Exorcist and The Ring as one of the most terrifying children in a horror movie I’ve seen in a long time. I mean it, she goes from sweet and innocent to shit-your-pants scary in an instance and every time she’s on-screen and possessed it’ll send chills down your spine and hopefully she’ll be cast in more scary flicks in the future.
            My only real issue with the movie is the beginning, not because it’s bad but it heavily relies on cheap jump scares and they come off as loud and annoying, not at all scary, it’s a forced cliché that’s really overstaying its welcome. But the second and third acts make up for it and lead to some legit scares.

            If you’re a fan of The Conjuring and Annabelle movies, this one’s not to miss, it covers more of the doll’s backstory and ties directly into the first movie at the end. Annabelle: Creation makes up for the sin of the first film and brings the doll back to its Conjuring roots and hopefully The Nun and The Conjuring 3 will continue the frightening success.