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neil-476

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2358 reviews in total 
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Batman vs. Robin (2015) (V)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Mixed feelings, 27 January 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Batman is having problems with Robin - the current Robin is Bruce Wayne's son, Damien, raised as an assassin by his maternal grandfather, and keen to apply lessons learned in the course of Gotham night patrols. He therefore finds the approach of the Court Of Owls tempting: their main operative, Talon, doesn't hesitate to kill villains. Damien's morality, and future as Robin, hangs in the balance.

This animated feature picks up assorted plot elements from recent Batman comics, and turns out quite a good feature as a result. But wait a minute - is it that good? Technically, it's fine - reasonable voice work, production design, and animation. But if you're not familiar with the comics from which it is adapted, you're going to have some problems. Why is Damien so murderous? Who is his mother? His grandfather? Who is the bloke in the blue costume (Nightwing)? What is his significance? You will have difficulty picking up these points if you come in cold. Accordingly this is a very bad film to encounter as your first exposure to the world of Batman in animated form: this film is for those who are already keen enough to be comics readers.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Unsavoury but funny, 26 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Small-time drug dealer Dave is forced to smuggle a large quantity of drugs into the USA from Mexico. In order to provide a convincing false identity by masquerading as a normal holidaying family in a camper van, he recruits stripper Rose as his wife, and homeless teen Casey and idiot neighbour Kenny as his children. The problem is that none of the four is ideally suited to playing the part of a normal family member and, when they get involved with another holidaying family whose Dad is a Drug Enforcement Agency operative, things get a little tricky.

This film - which features a lot of bad language which may, or may not, have a bearing on your enjoyment, is morally questionable but quite likable nevertheless. There is some enjoyable dialogue, a good plot, nice character development arcs, and good playing by the principals, Will Poulter especially.

I enjoyed this.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Resoundingly ordinary, 25 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A power struggle and a couple of assassinations in Atlantis result in Arthur Curry, long lost heir to the throne, being called upon to take up his birthright. This does not go down well with his half-brother (and usurping assassin) Orm, who is looking to wage war on the surface dwellers. Fortunately, the Justice League decides to get involved.

The comic on which this story was based was an OK story blessed with stellar art. Well, the visuals in this animated movie are OK. The story is fine, albeit the New 52 characterisation of various of the characters still jars. And it's this last point which takes the edge of what would otherwise be a really good movie. As it is, it's just OK.

Whiplash (2014)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Good, but not the easiest film, 24 January 2016
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Andrew is a talented young jazz drummer at a prestigious musical school who is under the tutelage of Terence Fletcher, a band teacher who gets results by humiliation and bullying. This is a method which results in prices to be paid.

This film, which never goes quite where you expect it to, features strong performances from Miles Teller as Andrew and JK Simmons as Fletcher. Fletcher is undoubtedly a monster, but the script and Simmons are canny enough to give him some rounded corners so that he is also human. And Teller gives a very physical performance which is not without some subtlety. The musical sequences are well done, especially the final one.

It's not the easiest of films to like - Andrew and Fletcher are not particularly likable characters - but it's powerful stuff, and opens a window into what happens when two driven people come up against each other.

Well worth watching.

Labyrinth (1986)
Timeless fantasy classic, 24 January 2016
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bad-tempered teenager Sarah, forced to babysit her baby brother, she wishes him kidnapped by the Goblin King, never suspecting that this will happen and she will have to venture into a Labyrinth populated by many strange creatures in order to rescue him.

This fantasy movie (with one foot in reality, hello Wizard Of Oz) is terrific. The story and script both crackle with energy, character and production design is exemplary (Jim Henson directed and most of the characters are made and performed by his Creature Shop), and all the performances are great. David Bowie is a charismatic and good-natured Goblin King, hardly a villain at all, and 16-year old Jennifer Connelly is a delight, showing clear signs of the star she would become, and holding a major film together effortlessly.

This is a classic family film.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good but strong, 24 January 2016
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Barry Allen - The Flash - goes back in time to prevent the murder of his mother, but this one change leads to other changes which, in turn, lead to a world-destroying war. Oh, and also to the accident which gives Barry his Flash powers never happening. Can a powerless Barry ever put things right? This animated feature adapts DC's Flashpoint event which was provided the transition into the New 52. While the New 52 is (in my view) of questionable merit, Flashpoint was good comics, and it is now a good film. Familiar characters are changed by the way circumstances have developed, and the world is very dark. The stakes are always high: familiar characters die, others never got the chance to be forces for good, and Barry is at the centre, wondering what he can do.

This is another DC film with graphic violence which makes it unsuitable for children. It's still a good film, though.

Very good, but not the Justice League you expect, 24 January 2016
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Scientists are being murdered, and the Justice League is being framed for the killings. But this isn't the familiar Justice League: this Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman kill without regret in order to maintain "justice." Many of the DC Comics animated features use varied character designs, often based on the comics they are adapted from. This feature is happy to adopt the house style established in the Batman, Superman, Justice League, and Batman Beyond TV series. But that is where any similarities end: this is an "Elseworlds" movie, using much of the established mythos but twisting it (Superman is found and raised by Mexican immigrants, Batman is vampire Kirk Langstrom, Wonder Woman is Highfather's daughter Bekka, and so on).

This is a good movie - a story which moves along well, with good action, animation and voice work - but make no mistake, this is not one for the kids. This is not so much for the mild swearing, it's because it is frequently quite graphically violent.

Pleasing Superman/Supergirl yarn, 24 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Superman and Supergirl find themselves pitted against city-stealer and world-destroyer Brainiac.

This animated feature adapts a comics story by Geoff Johns. It strays from artist Gary Frank's style, probably because Frank's Superman is clearly modelled on Christopher Reeve: I quite liked the character design, but it won't be to everybody's taste. The quality of the animation varies from serviceable to excellent.

What I liked here was the dynamic between Superman and a Supergirl who is still finding her way and feeling somewhat out of place. Supergirl is a well-rounded, nicely realised character in this. And the issue of Lois Lane being at risk, which is why Superman/Clark conceals his feelings towards her, is well addressed.

OK for its era, 23 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Martians invade Earth. Humans are outclassed. Is there any hope for the human race? Well...

HG Wells' classic tale gets transplanted to the USA, and saddled with some contemporary (for the 50s) characters, and given flying machines rather than tripods: otherwise, the main story beats remain. The trouble is that Wells' story is a classic for what it is rather than its storytelling: everybody remembers how the Martians are defeated, but it is a singularly limp, anticlimactic, and dramatically unsatisfying payoff in Wells' book, and remains so for this version (and also Spielberg's version in the noughties). So what is left is the survival attempts by the humans and, of course, the eye candy of the Martian invasion itself.

The soapy human shenanigans don't seriously engage the viewer's identification but, fortunately, the special effects are nicely realised, bright, colourful, and eye-catching. They're dated, of course - wires are visible, miniatures behave like miniatures (buildings crunch like matchboxes when destroyed, for instance) - but they are still quite good fun. They were, of course, state of the art at the time.

This film is OK, but there are other sci-fi films of the time which stand up rather better.

Interesting, but for Batman fans only, 23 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Batman: Gotham Knight is an animated film containing half a dozen vignettes, each helmed by a different Japanese director, and intended to fit between the first two films in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.

The stories each have worthwhile elements to them. The voice talent does well, and it is good to have Kevin Conroy as Batman. The animation style is very Japanese - don't expect Disney, but do expect Studio Ghibli or animated TV series from the last 30 years.

On the slightly negative side, the fact that these are individual vignettes means that the film doesn't hold together as a whole very well. And, on the more negative side, the character design, particularly in the first segment, tends to be somewhat alienating.


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