DC

155: Justice League vs. The Fatal Five Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Recently, in terms of quality, the DC brand has made a sudden course move to much better pastures. Sure, Aquaman is a bloated mess that felt like two movies in one, but it was such a blast to watch, and then Shazam! came out of nowhere, and was just an incredible movie. It’s easily my favorite superhero movie of 2019 so far, and I’m typing this as Avengers: Endgame comes out, so we will see how that ends up. Anyway, I’m happy that the company is doing a better job with its features, and I’m seeing some slight improvement in the animation department as well. While some of the films from last year were still okay at best, Batman Ninja was such an entertaining ride. It seems like whenever DC goes off the beaten path of something that’s not working correctly for them, they tend to get better results. For example, let’s see how Justice League vs. The Fatal Five does. Directed by Sam Liu, we see the return of not only Sam Liu as the director, but Bruce Timm as executive producer, and his designs take over the art direction of the film. This was also touted as the first DC-animated feature to deal with not only the Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, but also will be tackling characters with mental health challenges. So, how does it work juggling all of that? Well, let’s get started!

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The story sets us up in the future with the Legion of Superheroes, a “Justice League” of the future, to put it shortly. They are being attacked by three of a villain group known as The Fatal Five. The three members include Mano, voiced by Philip Anthony-Rodriguez, The Persuader, voiced by Matthew Yang King, and Tharok, voiced by Peter Jessop. So, what are they after? They are after a time machine to go into the past to get something. They get past Legion member Saturn Girl, voiced by Tara Strong, and Star Boy, voiced by Elyes Gabel. Fortunately, Star Boy ends up screwing up the three baddies’ plans, and ends up going into the past with them. Along the way, he encounters the current day’s Justice League members Batman, voiced by Kevin Conroy, Superman, voiced by George Newbern, Wonder Woman, voiced by Susan Eisenberg, Mr. Terrific, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, and young hopeful Miss Martian,  voiced by Daniela Bobadilla. Another side of the story has a unknown player in the overall plot with Jessica Cruz, the current Earth’s Green Lantern, voiced by Diane Guerrero. Will the Justice League be able to stop three of the Fatal Five members while dealing with the mystery of Star Boy and Jessica Cruz’s connection?

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So, how about we talk about the elephant in the room? This film deals with two characters who have mental health issues. Star Boy has a drug in the future that he takes to prevent some kind of mental breakdown, which the film describes as  paranoid schizophrenic, but even then, it’s a doctor from the past that describes it, so who knows if that’s really what it is. They don’t say what Jessica Cruz suffers from, and I want to take a guess, but I don’t want to mislabel it. That’s a big risk to have a film that tackles those types of issues. You have to be respectful about it, and tread lightly with making sure these disorders or issues are treated with delicate hands. For the most part, I think they do handle their struggles with the proper weight of said challenges. They aren’t just added in for no reason to give the story some kind of artificial struggle. Jessica Cruz, after surviving a pretty traumatic experience, struggles with getting up and socializing with the rest of the world. I could see how going through what happened would close one’s self away from the world. While they don’t really go into full detail as to what exactly happened with Star Boy, he’s more interesting as a character with his struggle to be helpful. He also realizes how crippling his issues are that could hinder the League’s attempts to stop the Fatal Five. You get a lot of quiet moments between Star Boy, Jessica Cruz, and the other characters. It might be fairly action-packed, but it does pull back to let the characters talk. Speaking of the action, while it might seem kind of busted for two of the villains seen for most of the film being a cyborg and a guy with a sharp axe, the action is pretty good! It’s nice to see the Fatal Five, for the most part, treated as major threats, which usually doesn’t happen a lot with most superhero films. Granted, I have some issues with the villains, but we will save that for a later part of the review. Even someone who I was very afraid would get the short stick, in terms of being important to the plot, Mr. Terrific, gets some great lines and action beats.

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Animation-wise, this is becoming the most boring part to talk about with these DC-animated films. Not that it’s badly animated, but it’s like talking about the LEGO games from Travelers Tales; it’s pretty much on-par with the other films recently released by DC and Warner Bros. When the action kicks in, the animation is great! You can still tell where they lessen the frames of animation, and some very minute parts feel like they slowed-down the footage, but it’s all on par for these animated features. It doesn’t hurt that the Bruce Timm designs are still very iconic. The voice cast is also stellar. While it could be seen as fanservicey to bring back Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg, and George Newbern as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, I am always happy to hear those voices. The rest of the cast also pulls their weight, with newcomers Elyes Gabel and Diane Guerrero doing splendid jobs as Star Boy and Green Lantern Jessica Cruz. The villains are also threatening with Peter Jessop, Matthew Yang King, and Philip Anthony-Rodruiguez’s performances. It’s always nice to see Kevin Michael Richardson, and I would totally watch a Mr. Terrific TV series or DC-animated film with Kevin Michael Richardson as the lead voice actor.

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So, where does this film fall flat? It’s funny how many people complain about the third act in Marvel films, and while some of them are definitely not handled the best, I would take the least liked third act of any of the Marvel films over the wonky and surprisingly sloppy third act of this movie. The plans the villains follow at first is pretty great as you find out why the Fatal Five went back in time, but then you find out about the actual plan, and it’s really stupid. I want to really talk about it, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. My opinion on the overall third act had me asking too many questions, and maybe some of it is my lack of knowledge of certain characters, but I just couldn’t fully get into it outside of the ending.  I also wish Miss Martian was not in the film. It’s not that she isn’t entertaining, voiced well, and so on, but she felt out of place with the other characters. I don’t know, maybe I’m too caught up with how Young Justice handles her character on that show.

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Still, despite my gripe with the third act, I did find myself enjoying Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. It’s a film I can see myself rewatching more than other DC-animated features and other animated features overall. It also makes me wish they would reboot and make a new League of Superheroes show or series of films. It’s a cool premise, and the original series was pretty decent. Maybe we will see more of these futuristic heroes in the future, but for now, I recommend Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. Now then, we shall move from superheroes dealing with complex issues, to a film about a brand of toys that haven’t been popular in years. Next time, we dive into the world of the UglyDolls movie. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go see it!

137: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

While following the animation scene is a lot of fun, with finding new directors and discovering new animation projects, any scene in the entertainment industry or any industry at all has its dark side. One of the loudest toxic reactions you will ever get is if you dare like a show like Teen Titans Go! Listen, I get the annoyance and anger of them canceling the original show for, from what I remember, no real reason, and then years later replacing it with something more comedic and less violent. However, people really need to let go of the anger for this show. Yes, it can be fairly vapid and stupid, but the show has a lot of great episodes, moments of clever writing, and really funny jokes. It just seems unfair to throw this show under the bus, when the original Teen Titans show from the 2000s had mostly that same kind of humor. You can easily connect the two shows without much effort. Not every episode was dark and mature. The new show isn’t perfect, and the original isn’t either. If people like both shows, then that’s fine. I’ll say this though, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a way better movie than Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. Directed by the series creators Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath, in terms of animation this year from the big studios, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies might be one of the biggest surprise of th eyear. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s check it out.

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The story follows our rambunctious group of “heroes”, Robin, voiced by Scott Menville, Beast Boy, voiced by Greg Cipes, Cyborg, voiced by Khary Payton, Raven, voiced by Tara Strong, and Starfire, voiced by Hynden Walch. After attempting to take down Balloon Man, voiced by Greg Davies, the villain is actually stopped by the combined forces of Wonder Woman, voiced by Halsey, Green Lantern, voiced by Lil Yachty, and Superman, voiced by Nicolas Cage. The three heroes call out the Titans for not really being heroes and all that comes with the responsibility. However, before the Titans can get chewed out too much by the adult heroes, they leave to go to Batman’s new movie premiere of Batman Again! Once there, and getting hugely ridiculed for not getting a movie, Robin decides that the only way to be taken seriously as heroes, is to get their own movie! Unfortunately, there are two things standing in his way, a movie director named Jade Wilson, voiced by Kristen Bell, and the fact that they don’t have a supervillain to call their own. Luckily for them, a supervillain named Slade, voiced by Will Arnett is trying to steal this stone to make his diabolical plan come to fruition! Can the Titans stop Slade? Will Robin get his own movie?

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I think it’s only fair if I started out with the positives. I have way too much to praise to save it for the last part of the review. First off, for a film on a $10 mil budget, and a simplistic art style, it looks really good. With these types of films, you have to grade on a slight curve. What saves it from simply looking like another film based on a TV show that didn’t really need to be in theaters, is the fact it constantly uses varying art styles during certain sequences. It’s mostly in the song sequences and certain gags, but I love that they were given the freedom to go all out on visuals. I would argue that it looks more visually interesting than most CGI films from this year. The backgrounds look crisper, and while the designs are still simple, I felt like the movements were smoother. This isn’t something like that awful She-ra film from decades ago that was pretty much done on the same budget as one of the episodes of He-Man.

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The biggest highlight of the film however is its comedy. From left to right, the film takes full advantage of being a superhero comedy that uses a lot of its best style of jokes and gags from the well-received episodes of the show. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies has some of the wittiest meta, self-deprecating, and best visual jokes of any comedy this year. It even has some of the darkest humor of 2018, where they take joy in what they do. I was surprised by this, because the writers and directors could have easily made this film a feature length version of an episode of the show that no one liked. Luckily for us, they lathered up all that elbow grease, and made sure this film had consistent laughs that were great for the kids, parents, and comic book fans. Even though it has a decent amount of low-brow humor, it does have a defense, in terms of reinforcing why the Titans got called out in the first place. I found myself consistently laughing alongside the audience when I went to go see this movie, and I was happy to see everyone young and old enjoying the film. You might even have to watch this film multiple times to spot all the jokes in the backgrounds. I could tell I missed a few. A lot of the reoccurring gags still have bite to them.

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However, one of the greatest aspects of this film is not on the visual or writing side of things, though, those are incredible, it’s the fact that the voice actors of the show and film get top billing. Yes, there are a huge amount of celebrities in small roles or rather questionable cameos, but they don’t get top billing. The ones you see on the posters and in the credits are the voice actors. I’m so happy about this, because they could have taken the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic the Movie, and put all the big celebrities who had varying amounts of screen time first in the credits and posters. Yes, Kristen Bell and Will Arnett get billing, but Greg Cipes, Tara Strong, Khary Payton, Hynden Walch, and Scott Menville deserve it more than everyone else. I’ll say this though, my favorite celebrity cameo was Patton Oswalt as the Atom, who has some of the best laughs out of the movie.

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I love Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, and I found it hysterical from beginning to end, but I do have some complaints about this silly movie. While I get that the film needed a plot to keep the jokes rolling, the overall plot is not the most interesting. It’s a case where everything that happens between the predictable story beats are more entertaining than Robin’s arc of getting over his crippling self-esteem issues of living under the shadow of the Batman. While I did care enough for our heroes to save the day and be fully okay with being silly characters, I think I would have rather them not try to make this film have emotional stakes. Like, I care, but it felt like the film wanted you to feel invested with the Titans, but also laugh at a lot of the comedic scenes that go into surprisingly dark comedic areas. It clashes with the comedy, when you are also told to care about the characters. Not to say you can’t be emotionally invested with characters in a comedy, but you have to be careful with how you execute it. My final complaint is that I wish the film didn’t lean on the lowbrow humor. It might have a reason to be there, but when the rest of the humor is so good, the fart, toilet, and twerk jokes feel out of place.

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In general, this film reminded me that everyone shouldn’t be taking everything so seriously about the franchise and this type of media in general. Listen, there is nothing wrong with having legit issues with the franchise. However, there is also nothing wrong with enjoying the series and loving this movie. I’m not going to apologize for having a great time with Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. It’s easily one of my favorite comedy films of 2018. I can see myself rewatching this film when it comes out on DVD. I highly recommend everyone go see it. The only reason I would say not to see this film, is because this series isn’t your cup of tea, or simply aren’t interested in seeing it. I will say this though, they are not blackmailing fans of the original with this movie. You simply need to learn about how the current animation climate on TV works. Also, don’t go see this if you are going to hate on it. That doesn’t solve anything. While I have had fun talking about comedies for the past two reviews, it’s time to move on to another Netflix-exclusive animated feature with Flavors of Youth. Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

129: Batman Ninja Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

You know, there is only so much you can do with a character, before you have to start getting creative. You either find new ways to tackle a character that has been around forever, or you simply stop their story right then and there. There are also tactics and plans to be had in-between those two decisions, but when you are someone like Batman, you have pretty much done it all. Batman Ninja, directed by Junpei Mizusaki, is one of the rare DC animated features to not be tied down to the more strict DC-animated film tropes. It’s a Batman film that decided to take a big shot of anime in its veins, and that is what we got. It also had some big names attached to it, like Takashi Okazaki, who was the creator of Afro Samurai, and Yugo Kanno, who did the music for Blame!, Psycho-Pass, and the PlayStation 4 game, Nioh. It’s also one of the more interesting animated features, due to its mix of CGI and 2D animation. So, is it as good as the best action anime out there? Is it one of the best DC animated films out there? Let’s find out.

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The story starts us off with Batman, dubbed this time by Roger Craig Smith, during a mission at night, as he tries to stop Gorilla Grodd, dubbed by Fred Tatasciore, from selling another mighty invention of his to the black market for supervillains. These villains include Poison Ivy, dubbed by Tara Strong, Deathstroke, dubbed by Fred Tatasciore, Two-Face, dubbed by Eric Bauza, The Penguin, dubbed by Tom Kenny, Harley Quinn, dubbed by Tara Strong, and of course, The Joker, dubbed by Tony Hale. After Batman gets into a fight with Grodd, the machine goes haywire, and sends all of them, including some of Bruce’s closest allies and partners, back into feudal-era Japan. Now, along with Catwoman, dubbed by Grey Griffin, his butler Alfred, dubbed by Adam Croasdell, Nightwing, also dubbed by Adam Croasdell, Robin, dubbed by Yuri Lowenthal, Red Robin, dubbed by Will Friedle, and Red Hood, also dubbed by Yuri Lowenthal, must stop the villains, turn back time, and save the day.

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So, what’s so amazing about this film? Well, for one of the rare occasions, DC decided to let someone else take the wheel, and they take the wheel hard. Batman Ninja is unapologetically dumb, fun, over-the-top, Japanese, and it will not stand down. Out of many of the DC-animated features I have seen the past few years, this one felt like it had the most consistent tones outside of the Adam West Batman films. It’s Batman in Japan, fighting a version of the Joker, whose grand master plan is to make a giant mech, and rewrite history. It will not let up on how anime this entire film is. From the designs to the action-packed fight sequences, it was clear that they knew what they were doing. Heck, they even have giant robot fights. Again, giant robot fights between the villains and Batman in feudal Japan. While there is definitely a story arc for Batman having to remember to rely less on his gadgets and more on his closest allies and his own skill, it’s balanced out enough within the main plot to keep you invested among the insanity.

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While I was fairly disappointed in how this film was going to be mostly CGI, and CGI on a small budget can be a gamble if you do not have the right creative team, I felt like it worked. Sure, they act like puppets sometimes, but the models used are way more expressive, detailed, and they feel like they have some kind of life to them. I was concerned about how action sequences would be handled, but I never found it distracting that they were CGI. The action is fast, brutal, satisfying, full of energy, and very entertaining to watch. The last fight between Batman and Joker is probably one of the best fights among these animated DC features. I never found myself wondering what the heck was going on during the fights. I think that’s because, unlike the Berserk anime series that uses CGI, Batman Ninja has proper direction in how the fights flow. On top of the crazy action, the color pallet is used well, the CGI models look good on the 2D planes, and they even have an entire surreal sequence done in 2D animation, and it looks fantastic. The music by Yugo Kanno was also matched up well with the film’s pacing and style. The big action theme that plays near the end is quite heart-pounding, and it makes the final fight so intense to watch.

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In terms of the voice cast, I was surprised. While we have some returning faces like Roger Craig Smith, Tom Kenny and Tara Strong reprising their roles as Batman, Penguin, and Harley Quinn, the rest of the voice cast is pretty spot-on. I was curious to see how Tony Hale would do as The Joker, and while a bit off-putting at first, he does a good job capturing that zany crazy nature of the character. As you can tell, many of the actors in this film pull double shifts with voicing multiple characters, but they are each unique sounding enough to not be an issue or a distracting element to the overall film. It was also simply fun to see other villains outside of the main Batman library, like Gorilla Grodd, who is definitely one of the more entertaining aspects of the film.

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While I do love this film in terms of how willing it is to be not only visually creative, but fun with its plot and setting, I do have a few complaints. I get why they used CGI animation, and it’s not the worst I have seen, but it definitely shows itself at times with how limiting it is. Sometimes characters seem more like puppets, and less like actual characters that are on the screen. It’s even more distracting when you can tell that not everyone is a CGI model. It is better than what I have seen Polygon Pictures or the Berserk series use, but I wish they went full-stop 2D animation for this film. For as fun as the action is, the final battle that is not Batman and The Joker is really underwhelming. You have all of these amazing villains and characters with the unlimited creativity of anime fight sequences, and the villains end up losing in under a minute. It’s really underwhelming, because all the other action sequences in the film are great. The one full 2D sequence was fun to see in the film, but it sticks out like a sore thumb. I don’t think I fully got why it was only that one scene, and why it was animated in such a way. The rest of the complaints are minor, like even though I respect how much the film wrapped itself up in the anime culture, some parts were just a bit much, like the little monkey sidekick. Some of Batman’s sidekicks also don’t have a lot to do, or get that many line reads.

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Overall, Batman Ninja is just a fun movie. By the end of the year, it probably won’t be in my top ten or five, depending on what else comes out, but it will be one that people should definitely pick up. If you were burned by their other animated features, definitely pick this one up. I had a lot of fun, and it’s easily one of the most entertaining DC animated films you can get right now. For now, we must move on to the 130th review as we take a look at another film that may be good or bad for infamous reasons. I won’t say what it is, but you will have to see next time! Thanks for reading the review! I hope you enjoyed it, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

128: Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Warning/Parental Heads Up: This film is crazy violent. There is also some brief female nudity and quite a lot of death. I will also be spoiling some minor moments. Younger viewers should probably stay away from this film. Enjoy the review!

Looking back at films like Suicide Squad, I feel badly for what happened to it. It was almost complete, but then got delayed for reshoots, due to the negative reaction to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It had a marketing campaign to match the film’s tone of Guardians of the Galaxy, came out, was widely panned upon release, was yet another DC film criticized for sloppy editing, and then was released on DVD with a different cut to it. Sure, it made money and gave DC/WB some profit, but you do get the feeling that it could have/should have been more than what we got in the final product. It’s always a bummer when studio shenanigans get in the way and hurt a film more than help it. Would have the original version been any better? Maybe, but we won’t know. Luckily, it won’t be the last time we see our rambunctious group of villains, as we are getting a sequel. For now, let’s look at the animated film, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay. Directed by mainstay DC animated film director Sam Liu, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay set itself up as this grindhouse-style action flick with plenty of violence, and plenty of action and fun. Does it succeed? Well, let’s find out.

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The story revolves around our ragtag group of villains working under the government. The team this time consists of Deadshot, voiced by Christian Slater, Harley Quinn, voiced by Tara Strong, Bronze Tiger, voiced by Billy Brown, Captain Boomerang, voiced by Liam McIntyre, Killer Frost, voiced by Kristin Bauer Van Straten, and Copperhead, voiced by Gideon Emery. They are under orders by Amanda Waller, voiced by Vanessa Williams, to find and take down Vandal Savage, voiced by Jim Pirri. He is apparently looking for something, and has gotten the help of Scandal Savage, voiced by Dania Ramirez, and Knockout, voiced by Cissy Jones. Can our team of misfits take them down? Can this film find a tone that fits?

I know I made that last part sound like a joke, but that is the film’s biggest failing. When the film starts, it’s this hyper-violent train heist, where Deadshot is with Count Vertigo, Punch, and Jewelee. And boy, do things get late 80s/early 90s anime-violent. Bodies are sliced in half, blood and guts fly everywhere, heads explode, and it then does that grindhouse film burn effect. The rest of the film is not entirely like this. It struggles to balance out the fun schlocky aspects, like finding out the most recent host of Dr. Fate was a male stripper, and even a plot twist of some other villains trying to find the same thing Vandal Savage is looking for. I won’t say who the villains are for those that haven’t seen it yet, but it’s a lot of fun, and the twist adds to the cheesy schlock of those old 70s/80s exploitation films. Some parts are fun to watch, and the dialogue is definitely punched up to match the tone, but then it tries to have slower moments and an emotional arc for Deadshot and his daughter. It’s not a bad idea for a character, but when it can’t find an ideal way to balance out the ultra-violence and the more dramatic moments, it flip-flops, and constantly kept taking me out of the experience. Much of the story does focus on only a few characters, and the rest are either given very little to do or little development as characters. I loved seeing Copperhead, but he doesn’t do a whole lot. He gets maybe one good death in, but that’s it. While it is schlocky fun, there comes a point where it becomes a bit much. There is some brief nudity that’s jarring, and that goes for the violence, too. Sometimes, things can get so violent, that it’s excessive. The plot also loses steam near the end, with twist after twist after backstabbing. Some of the lines for the snarkier characters also feel more like trailer lines than anything that felt genuine. This is especially true with Killer Frost.

So, what’s fun about the movie? Well, when everything does work, it’s an entertaining movie. While it has some of the same animation the other DC-animated features have, where a lot of the animation was obviously put into the action, and some areas lower the frames of animation, the action is fun to watch. I think what works with this film, more than in the Suicide Squad live-action film, was that the action was visible, and due to the more diverse cast of villains, we get to see more powers, more special moves, and it all sticks. It’s easily one of the more action-packed films from DC. When the characters do have time to be together, they are an amusing group. Everyone usually has a good quirk, or a clever line of dialogue. Even though I wish they didn’t kill off as many characters as they did, I do respect that they put some stakes into the plot. Even the additional villains bring flair and an entirely different DC story into the mix. Granted, that might make some aspects confusing. A lot of schlocky stuff would add in complex elements that are probably not needed, but they threw it in, because it was cool. The voice cast is once again very good. Tara Strong as Harley Quinn is always fun to hear, I like Christian Slater’s take on Deadshot, Vanessa Williams does a great job as Amanda Waller, Billy Brown brings this stoic calm headed tone to Bronze Tiger, Gideon Emery was delightfully slimy as Copperhead (who also had my favorite design out of all the villains), and Liam McIntyre brings in the same vibe Donald Gibson did as Captain Boomerang, to name a few. I also like their usage of other lesser known villains of the DC universe. Sometimes, you can only do so much with one character before you run into a wall, and run out of ideas. It’s why I always enjoyed the Batman: The Brave and the Bold TV series, because that was the entire point of the show.  

While not my favorite of the DC films, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay goes straight down the middle. When it’s fun, it’s a lot of fun. When the characters are allowed to work off one another, they are entertaining. I even like the story twist near the end, despite the drag the third act has. It even has a fun easter egg for the added antagonist’s voice actor, if you have seen one of the DC animated films from 2013.  I simply wish it kept its tone consistent. It made the ultra-violence distracting, and the emotional moments feel unwarranted. Some of the animation can be stiff, and it’s not the most competently paced film out of the franchise. Still, it’s fun, and if you want to bring in the schlock for 80 minutes, I can think of worse films to watch. Before we get to review 130, let’s take a look at what is quickly becoming one of the best reviewed animated DC films with Batman Ninja. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 108: Batman & Harley Quinn Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Well, after a year of nothing, but positive reviews for a project, DC finally has what could be considered their worst outing of the year so far. Well, at least in the animation scene (I do know Justice League is not doing well). I mean, it’s bound to happen to some companies. Even GKids, Disney, and A24 will have a dud or a film that isn’t as good as their other offerings. I think it’s more disappointing, since DC has been really good so far this year. I enjoyed LEGO Batman, Justice League Dark, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, and even though I haven’t seen it yet, Wonder Woman is one of the more important films of the year. Too bad that winning streak had to come to a halt with Batman and Harley Quinn. Probably one of the more hyped direct-to-video films from DC, this was promising from every aspect. It had Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester returning as Batman and Nightwing, Kevin Michael Richardson as one of the villains, and it was going to be this big comedic action film with Batman fighting alongside Harley Quinn, one of the most popular comic characters of all time. Sadly, as anyone can tell you by now, this film was not well received, and it was just another disappointment from DC’s animation front. Let’s dive into this Sam Liu-directed experience, and see what went wrong.

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The plot starts us off with Poison Ivy, voiced by Paget Brewster, teaming up with a rather low-key DC villain, Floronic Man, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. They break into a lab, and take a scientist hostage to unleash their evil plan. Batman, voiced by Kevin Conroy, teams up with Nightwing, voiced by Loren Lester, to find out what exactly is going on, and what specifically did the two plant villains steal. Unfortunately, if they want to find out about anything, they need to get in touch with Ivy’s long lost friend, Harley Quinn, this time voiced by Melissa Raunch of Big Bang Theory fame. Can they find Harley, and team up with her to stop Poison Ivy and Floronic Man?

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It’s really hard to talk about this film, and not bring up one of the biggest elephants in the room/problems with the film, Harley Quinn herself. She has been everywhere, and has enjoyed critical acclaim from all fandoms of DC. Sadly, she is incredibly hit-and-miss with this film. I don’t want to be too harsh on Melissa Rauch, because I know she has gotten the most criticism out of a lot of reviews, but she is part of the problem. Her voice for the character sounds like an incredibly obnoxious parody of how Tara Strong or Arleen Sorkin voiced her. It got grating quickly with her forced accent. I mean, she would be fine if the script and story did more with her than to be a sex icon. Listen, she is a very lovely character, but a lot of the jokes and scenes with her are focused around sex appeal, and I’m not some teen anymore. Her relationship with the Joker ruins any kind of sex appeal, due to how horrifying and damaging it was. The film just decides to give her a one-night-stand with Nightwing, and some scenes of fan service. Again, I wouldn’t mind a more mature edge to everything in this movie, if it didn’t clash with the more comedic tone of the film. This film is probably one of the more violent DC animated films. You will see blood, and the Floronic Man kills multiple people in the movie. The sleaze and the violence would have been better if the jokes landed. Sadly, the jokes don’t always land, and rarely did I laugh in the movie. The film tries out a lot of childish humor, adult humor, and clever humor, but it felt like too many people were trying to make the film’s comedy work. For example, they have a fun scene with Rob Paulsen playing two characters singing a country song, but then do full-on Harley Quinn fanservice, and it makes the fun part lose some weight. Also, does DC have something against Swamp Thing? This is the second film from DC this year with Swamp Thing, and he only appears in the last five minutes, and does nothing. He just spouts some philosophical garbage, and then says “peace!”, and sinks back into the swamp. Now, part of that is very funny, but at the same time, why have him in the movie if he isn’t going to do anything?

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The jokes and the action would probably be better as well, if the animation was better. At times, the animation is typical straight-to-video quality, but some scenes will dip in frames, and it’s really obvious that they spent more money on some scenes than others. It’s such a shame because they are using the old 90s animated series style. You know they can make that style work for multiple projects. I even noticed some weird details, like you can see Nightwing’s eyes through his mask, and you don’t know why they did that. His eyes are already super expressive with the mask on.

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So, what is great about this movie? Well, the voice cast is pretty outstanding. While I know I dragged Melissa Rauch through the ringer, the rest of the voice cast does a great job bringing their characters to life. Kevin Conroy, Kevin Michael Richardson, Paget Brewster, John DiMaggio, Rob Paulsen, and Loren Lester all have great performances. One of my favorite scenes is actually the scene I talked about above this sentence, where Paulsen plays twins singing a great country song. While the comedy doesn’t always land, when it does, the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, though if you want a funny DC-animated film, you should just pick up The LEGO Batman Movie. Still, the comedy does work when the scenes line up with everything going on.

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Batman & Harley Quinn is a huge disappointment, and it doesn’t help Bruce Timm’s later work, since his reputation was hit with The Killing Joke last year. Like I said above, if you want a more comedy-focused DC animated film, you are better off getting The LEGO Batman Movie or Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. It’s honestly a shame this didn’t work out as well as it could have, because the idea is really good. A dark comedy Batman movie. That sounds like it would sell well. However, if this is the best they could do, then maybe it’s best they stick to more serious stories. Not the worst of the year, but it’s still not that great. Well, let’s jump into the countdown to 110 reviews, and check out Leap! Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 86: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

It’s actually quite refreshing to see DC get back on its feet after the failure that was 2016. So far, it has had two great movies with The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, both being fantastic films that are fun to watch and have a lot of great personality to them. Neither of them feels like they were trying too hard to be edgy or focused on the wrong aspects of the film that completely ruin everything else. So, where does Teen Titans: The Judas Contract stand among the DC fodder of this year? The Judas Contract is a follow-up to 2016’s Justice League vs. Teen Titans, a film that I really despised, and felt like it was wasted, based on the fact that one unlikable character took too much of the main story-time from the other members. So, how good is the follow-up? Is it as fantastic as the 2005 original show, or is it just another dud in the basket of other duds from DC? Let’s find out.

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The story takes place one year after Justice League vs. Teen Titans. The team has gotten bigger with the newest member, Terra, voiced by Christina Ricci, a girl who can control rock. Nightwing, voiced by Sean Maher, has become co-leader of the Titans, along with Starfire. The main driving force and threat of this film centers around Brother Blood, voiced by Gregg Henry, a leader of a cult. He plans on taking the powers and life force from the Titans to ascend into godhood. He won’t be alone in pulling off this plan, as he has the help of Slade/Deathstroke, voiced by the late Miguel Ferrer. Can the Titans stop Brother Blood and Deathstroke? Is Terra a fully trustworthy character? Does this film have similar story beats to the 2000s series?

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Right off the bat, I want to say that this film does everything better than the previous film in every single way. First off, Damian Wayne does not steal the spotlight, as this time, everyone gets shared screen-time. For the most part, everyone gets their own little story arcs, like Blue Beetle and his divisive relationship with his family, Nightwing and Starfire being a couple, and Beast Boy with his relationship with Terra. This is what the first movie should have been instead of Damian Wayne being the worst thing on earth and hogging up what was pretty much Raven’s story. I liked a lot of what was going on between the team members, and found their chemistry to be leagues better than the last film. Even Damian Wayne is toned down in this film, and becomes rather tolerable. I can’t believe that he would be toned down, since the writers adore making him a power fantasy character. Sure, I can see some people not enjoying the pairings or story arcs of what is going on between the different characters, but at the very least, it’s a step up from Damian hogging the spotlight, while everyone else is either poorly written or not fleshed out. This time, it really does feel like a team, and that is what you look for in these types of films. It’s why the Justice League in this film universe really bugged me. It’s because they always acted like they didn’t really like or respect each other, and they seem to be at each other’s throats, and willing to kill each other.

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The animation is the typical direct-to-video DC film quality. It has good animation, even if at times they slow down the framerate, making the movements look iffy. However, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the film has some fantastic action sequences. Granted, when you have Deathstroke and a bunch of characters that have super powers, you should be able to make the action top-notch. I personally prefer the action in Justice League Dark, but that’s mostly because it’s all magic-based, and you can get away with cool spells and pretty visuals with magic. I also liked that everyone was pretty competent in terms of being able to hold their own. The previous film had some good action, but some characters felt like they got the short end of the stick.  The voice cast is also stellar. Everyone from the previous film reprises their roles, and Terra’s voice actress, Cristina Ricci, and Miguel Ferrer in one of his final roles as Deathstroke do great jobs at their own characters. The rest of the voice cast is decent, like I think Gregg Henry as Brother Blood does a solid job as a creepy cult leader. Oh, and if you are a comic book fan and haven’t seen this film yet, they do keep the creepy Deathstroke and Terra relationship that happened in the comics.

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The only real major complaint I have about the film is that the lead villain, Brother Blood, is not entirely original or unique. I have seen a couple of different versions of him, and each time that I have seen those iterations, he was way more imposing and threatening than this version. This version was simply boring, and he was just another zealous cult leader. Granted, Deathstroke had more of a character arc, alongside his relationship with Terra, but if Brother Blood is supposed to be the bigger threat, they didn’t do a good job. I also felt like the romance plot between Beast Boy and Terra was done way better in the show. Granted, a lot of storylines in films could be done better if they were spread across multiple episodes, but here it felt forced, even though that is what happens in the comics and the TV series. I think it also loses a lot of that emotional weight, because fans of the franchise have seen this story arc before. The only interesting change would be if we see the effect it had on Beast Boy in the next film.

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While I think The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark are better, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract gets my “Redemption from Something Awful Award”, due to how it improves upon everything the first film failed to do. Heck, if Wonder Woman and the future DC-animated films continue to be good, Warner Bros. could have what can be considered their best year in terms of DC films. If you haven’t checked this one out, definitely do so. Well, as I wait for Batman & Harley Quinn to come out, how about we take a look at Smurfs: The Lost Village next time? Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 78: Justice League Dark Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

As we move into 2017, DC is under a microscope in terms of their movies. To be honest, I’m quite looking forward to Wonder Woman, and hope that Justice League Part 1 will blow everyone out of the water. I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded that DC went through some rough times in 2016. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to impress everyone, resulting in the film underperforming, and while Suicide Squad was a financial hit, it didn’t fare well with critics and audiences being split with it. Personally, I find both films to just be middle of the road. I’m sure if I thought long and hard, I could explain why they don’t work for me, but this is about animation so how did they do in 2016? Not well either. Besides the amazing Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, their offerings were boring, underwhelming, or terrible. Luckily, if DC’s 2017 offerings are anything like The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, then they are in good hands. Let’s just dive in and see why Justice League Dark is one of the best starts in terms of animated films for 2017.

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All over the world, normal law-abiding citizens are going on murderous rampages killing innocent people in the process. The problem comes into play when the Justice League try to stop them, and they find out the people doing these horrible acts of violence are apparently seeing demons. Batman, voiced by Jason O’Mara, then decides to enlist the help of the more magical/supernatural heroes of the world. These include John Constantine, voiced by Matt Ryan, Zatanna, voiced by Camilla Luddington, Boston Brand a.k.a Deadman, voiced by Nicholas Turturro, Jason Blood/Etrigan the Demon, voiced by Ray Chase, Black Orchid, voiced by Colleen Villard, and Swamp Thing, voiced by Roger Cross. It’s up to them to find out who is exactly causing all this chaos.

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So, what does DC do right in this Jay Oliva-directed animated film? Well, I can tell you one thing that a majority of DC’s film line-ups didn’t have last year, charm. Justice League Dark probably has one of my favorite casts of characters in terms of DC animation. The way they work off one another makes them very likable and endearing to watch. I’m not fully on the DC hate bandwagon, but I’m not going to lie and say I found a lot of their recent iterations of characters in film form interesting or worth liking. Justice League Dark has a great balance of characters who are engaging and worth investing into. I think the best example of this is a scene early on in the film where John Constantine and Jason Blood are playing poker with The Demons Three. This one scene balances out action, comedy, and personality. Outside of that one scene, there are other points in the overall story, where the characters were engaging, and it helped that there was a good mystery of where the paranormal incidences were coming from. I was hooked in terms of what was happening, the villains behind this whole shebang, and let’s not forget how great the action is.

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The animation is fantastic. While it might be straight-to-DVD quality animation that you normally see in terms of DC’s animated features, and yes, there is a tiny bit of stiff movements, it’s definitely easy to tell that this film had a bigger animation budget than, say, The Killing Joke. Due to this being a story that revolves around magic and demons, you not only get great visuals of the spells, but also action that takes advantage of said magic. It’s why animation is such a great form of entertainment. While you do need to create it, you are not limited by real life physics or limitations. Let’s face it; unless you are Game of Thrones, or you get a really good effects team, TV-grade effects are not going to be that impressive. It’s just so satisfying to watch the action in this movie, and see how creative the spells got.

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The voice actors that were chosen were superb. It was a nice touch that they got Matt Ryan, who played John Constantine in the cancelled-too-soon NBC series as well, for this film. It’s like hearing Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop. If it’s not Steve Blum, then it’s not the same character. The other cast members, in addition to the ones I mentioned above, include Alfred Molina as Destiny, Enrico Colantoni as Felix Faust, and Roger Cross as Swamp Thing. They all did a great job at their roles.

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Unfortunately, some of my complaints for this film come from some of the characters. They don’t really do much with Swamp Thing, and he doesn’t appear in the film until the 40-minute mark. He’s not really that interesting, and when he fights the big baddie of the film, he gets taken out rather quickly. I also didn’t care for what they did to Etrigan. Granted, I enjoyed about 80% of his screen-time, but what happens in the last 20% f this film bugs me. I won’t say what happens, but still. Deadman could also get somewhat annoying at times. I get why he couldn’t do much because he’s a soul, but he was very much the comic relief.

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Justice League Dark might be the newest entry in the flawed rebooted DC animated film universe, and it does have its share of problems, but it’s easily the best one since Batman versus Robin. I liked the fighting, the comradery between the characters, the animation, and the story. I wish they were able to flesh out some more characters and not one-shot them, because the team in this film were easily the most endearing and entertaining. If you are a DC fan, and haven’t picked this film up yet, then I highly recommend doing so. Even though it’s early in the year, and I still think after Justice League Dark and The LEGO Batman Movie, this could very well be DC and WB’s year in animation. Well, that was fun, but next time we shall take a look at China’s highest grossing animated film that wasn’t made by other studios with Monkey King: Hero is Back. Yes, it’s spelled like that. Thanks for reading, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go see it!

 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Here we are with part two! If you haven’t checked out part 1, then you should, since I may or may not reference the previous films on this list. Here is the link to see part 1, and once you are done reading that list, you can go to this list. These films are the middle ground/”I wouldn’t want to watch again” films with the exception of the 11th film. Let’s begin!

18. The Croods

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Oh my golly gee, two DreamWorks films are in the middle of the list? Yeah, this is easily one of their worst years in terms of movies. The Croods definitely has more to it than Turbo, with some interesting concepts, like the old dealing with the new, adaptation, and evolution via the family and the evolved male they meet. The film also has some amazing visuals that are definitely more…Avatar-inspired, with lush vibrant plant life and animals. However, it unfortunately sticks into the “just okay” category of films, due to how it has some interesting ideas, but goes for a more generic tone of the father vs. the guy who’s crushing on his daughter, and becomes a mostly macho competition as they all avoid the danger of their ever-shifting earth. Some of the designs are neat, but they really oversexualized the daughter in this movie. Like, it’s trying so hard to be pleasing to the eye that it does the opposite. It’s a film that also falls under “great ideas and concept, but bad execution” category, which is something this year’s list of animated films are good at.

17. Alois Nebel

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This is easily one of the more visually impressive films from 2013. Alois Nebel is a Czech drama based on a graphic novel about a train dispatcher in the 1980s. He begins to deal with memories of when he was a young boy during World War II, as well as the problems of today after meeting a mute man at the station where he works. Its rotoscope animation and comic book art style definitely brings a personality to this morose story. It’s an ambitious film that’s unfortunately bogged down by a very slow pace. It can be very atmospheric and touching at times, but those parts are few and far between, due to how “plotless” the story can feel. It also has a bit of cultural history behind it, due to this period of time when this film takes place and the point of the WWII flashbacks. It’s not going to be for everyone, and I honestly had a hard time sitting through this film from beginning to end, but I respect it for doing something different than what we normally get with animation. It might be flawed, but it stands out among the 2013 animated films. Definitely get a copy of this, if it is your type of film.

16. Epic

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This film is infuriating, because there is a good dark fantasy film hidden somewhere in this inconsistently toned “epic” adventure. They didn’t need to make a Ferngully-style story, they should have taken out the stunt casting of Beyonce and Pit Bull since they had no reason to be there, a lot of the modern dialogue was distracting, and the comedy relief was grating. The only stunt casting I didn’t mind was Steven Tyler, and that was because he had some of the better lines in the overarching story. If they had just made it its own dark fantasy adventure film, with a more timeless script, mature story, kept the modern elements out, recast some of the stunt casting, and gotten a director like the Russo Brothers or J.J. Abrams, this would have been easily one of Blue Sky Studios’ best movies. It has a solid script (minus the distracting elements), beautiful animation, and some good action. Sadly, it’s a bunch of wasted potential, with villains with no reason to do what they are doing, and in the end giving the movie-goers a very forgettable time. I can understand why some people like it, but it’s more so a very expensive tech demo to show off how good they have gotten with their designs and animation than anything else.

15. Monster’s University

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Even though I already said this about a lot of films on this list, Monster’s University encapsulates the entire “studio mandated/pointless sequel/prequel/cash grab/wasted potential”-style movie perfectly. Yes, there are touching moments, yes, the voice work is entertaining, yes the moral at the end is rather well done, and yes, seeing the different elements of ‘scaring’ broken down into different categories is creative. However, it’s a purely inconsequential movie. We know what’s going to happen in the end, the characters are forgettable, the jokes were either decent or flat, and it’s yet another college frat movie that you saw a million times during the late 70s early 80s, like Animal House. I would have been fine with this film if they either did something clever, or made fun of those college comedies. There is a reason why I call this film the “film that forced Pixar to take a break”, since they didn’t release a film until 2015’s Inside Out, due to their string of failed movies including Cars 2, Brave, and Monster’s University. It’s harmless, but there could have been much more to this film, but Pixar decided to sleepwalk on it.

14. Superman Unbound

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While I don’t hate Superman, I never found him interesting as a character. This movie, Superman Unbound doesn’t really help the case. My overall thought on the movie is that it’s okay. It has some great action, a cool design for Brainiac, and the overall story is told decently, but the art style is very distracting. Superman, Lois Lane, and a lot of the characters don’t look great, and have these weird body types. Even Brainiac ended up being a bit of an idiot, which is always funny when even with how smart characters can be, they can still make some pretty big mistakes, and I don’t know whether it was intentional or not. Still, it was a decent action movie romp, but I would definitely skip this one, and move onto something like Superman vs. The Elite or Superman: Doomsday.

13. The Rabbi’s Cat

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I also reviewed this one in one of my earliest reviews, but I still stand by what I said about it being one of the more interesting, weird movies that I have seen. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable French animated film based off a graphic novel series about a cat that gains the ability to speak like a human after eating a parrot. It’s a slice-of-life-style film, where it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but the dialogue interactions of the characters keep it interesting. I also enjoyed hearing the characters talk about Judaism and their points of view on it. The ending is definitely underwhelming, and the story can be a bit unfocused, but if you are up for something that has a unique art style and a different kind of personality to it, then definitely check this out.

12. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2

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This is definitely a great and epic way to end one of the better animated comic book adaptations. I still don’t think that The Dark Knight Returns needed to be two parts, since I would rather judge it as a whole, and I don’t like the fact that DC keeps only making 75 minute-long films, but I digress. The second part of the overall story was dark in all the correct ways, I was glued to the screen watching how the story progressed, and while Superman and Batman are definitely older, the fight sequence between the two was intense and epic. I kind of call a stack of bologna on the ending, but it’s comic book stuff. Even then, it’s a great movie. Just try to find a way to get both parts in the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition.

 

Stay tuned for the Part 3 of this list!

The Other Side of Animation 63: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Oh, my goodness, it finally happened! In 2016, DC released a superhero film that wasn’t terrible or super-divisive! 2016 has definitely been an uneven year, but we finally have a product that changes that! Granted, it’s another Batman film, but hey, you’ve got to take the victories as they come. What is also interesting is that this universally praised DC film is based off of one of the best cheesiest shows of all time, this is Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. This new animated film from DC is directed by Rick Morales, and has Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprising their roles from the 1960s Batman TV series. So, how good is this movie? Is it DC’s Deadpool? Or is it meant to be yet another divisive, but mostly in the middle of the road DC film? Let’s find out.

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As previously mentioned, Adam West and Burt Ward reprise their roles as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. While enjoying a lovely night of television, they realize that the ghoulish team-up of Joker, voiced by Jeff Bergman, The Penguin, voiced by William Salyers, The Riddler, voiced by Wally Wingert, and Catwoman, voiced by Julie Newmar, are joining forces to pull off the heist of the century! Can the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin stop the four?

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So, what makes this DC’s best film? Well, it’s because it takes full advantage of its setting and characters. Unlike the previous movies that tried to either a.) shove two comic book storylines into one, b.) have two cuts, and release the one that people were criticizing due to its editing, c.) add additional story that hurts the main story, or d.) have a story focus on the most unlikable characters of all time, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders knows what it wants to be. It loves its setting, and the writers and director took full advantage of it. You get corny lines, captain obvious lines from Robin, Adam West trying to connect current events to them fighting crime, the police being utterly useless, and cheesy lines everywhere. Oh, and I do mean everywhere! It’s easily one of the most consistently funny films that I have seen this year. And in a year where we have had Sausage Party and Storks, that’s saying something. It also has some not-so-subtle commentary about the darker incarnations of the iconic superhero. Listen, I love stuff like Tim Burton’s Batman, The Dark Knight, and the Batman Arkham games, but there is a point to where being “dark” comes off as “trying too hard” and “edgy”, which seems to happen a lot to Batman. Not to say I like the corny fun Batman over something like Batman: The Animated Series, but when you can do well with both, then both have a reason to be entertaining to watch. You even get a cool little twist about halfway through the film with commentary about a darker Batman. I was at first concerned about how they were going to handle this, but in the end, it still felt like one giant joke, and it was pulled off perfectly. It’s one of those rare experiences where the entire story and the characters are enjoyable from beginning to end. I think my favorite part about the experience is the trope of how easy it is for the dynamic duo to solve the riddles when they seem like something out of a Sierra adventure game, or how overly, and I mean overly prepared they are for situations.

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The animation is leagues better than Batman: The Killing Joke, since it feels like characters have actual movement. It can be a bit stiff, but it doesn’t become super-distracting. The voice cast is also pretty solid. I have some complaints, but I feel like Burt Ward, Adam West, and Julie Newmar give off the best performances. The cheesy music is nothing too memorable, but it fits the mood of the story.

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If I had to complain about something, it would be some of the voice acting. The villain’s dialogue comes off as clunky, and it might be due to how the actors behind them deliver it. Some of the main characters’ dialogues also felt weirdly delivered at times, but that’s probably due more to their age. I also wish the ending could have been more over-the-top in silly action. I understand they didn’t want to put all of their eggs in one basket, but when you have a plot as funny and goofy as 60s Batman can get, you want to go out on the ultimate high note.

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Still, even with some weird line deliveries and an ending that could have gone further, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is definitely the funniest animated film I have seen this year in terms of comedies, and is no doubt DC’s best movie of 2016. It’s easily their most well-received film, and is one I would highly recommend purchasing. They even announced a sequel where William Shatner will voice Two Face. Well, this was a fun review to write, since I didn’t have many kind words to DC’s other projects. Next time, we will head upward with the French/Danish film, Long Way North. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 49: Batman: The Killing Joke Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

PARENTAL WARNING/HEADS UP: This film is not for younger audiences. It has cursing, brutal violence, and scenes of consensual sex, and applied sexual assault. It is not for a young viewing audience, and you should definitely skip out on this if you plan on watching it with your kids. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

This is going to be an interesting topic to talk about, due to today’s review. Have you ever watched a movie that you either love, enjoy, or hate, but then find that one scene that everyone talks about or notices about the film at hand, and it hurts the movie on many different levels? For example, the ending to From Up on Poppy Hill bothers me, even though I love the entire movie. The conclusion is so abrupt, and has no real closure for the viewers. They get the answer to their long requested, well, question, and then the credits roll. Heck, a lot of Japanese animated films do these abrupt endings, and it’s incredibly distracting, like in The Secret World of Arrietty, REDLINE, and Whisper of the Heart. The Wings of Honneamise has an incredibly uncomfortable moment that is essentially the male lead almost assaulting the female lead, and then the movie tries to paint it like it’s the female lead’s fault that it happened. Yeah, when you spot these moments, they can lead to a lot of problems in terms of the execution of said scenes, and how they impact the overall film. That’s why I decided to talk about the recently released (digitally at least) Batman: The Killing Joke. Directed by Sam Liu, produced by Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, with a script and story written by Brian Azzarello, The Killing Joke was definitely one of the more infamous events during the San Diego Comic Con of this year, with the controversy of the additional 30 minutes of story added to the original 45 minute run-time. It also got a lot of heat for a specific scene 19 minutes into the movie where Batgirl and Batman have sex. Yeah, we will get to that part in due time and talk about it. The overall reception of its release digitally (physical release in August) has definitely been mixed with much criticism aimed at the additional 30 minutes and the apparent sex scene. Anyway, what do I think of it? Well, let’s find out.

The Killing Joke is based off of the 20 or so paged graphical novel of the same name, revolving around The Joker, voiced by the always amazing Mark Hamill, essentially ruining the life of Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon, voiced by the also always amazing Tara Strong. The Joker essentially shoots Batgirl in the spine, causing her to be paralyzed, and kidnaps her father. It’s up to Batman, voiced by the also excellent Kevin Conroy, to stop The Joker and his schemes. The 30 minutes of additional footage are essentially about Batgirl taking down a sociopathic thug that has become obsessed with her while Batman attempts to teach Batgirl about not taking certain situations too far.

Yeah, let’s get to the biggest problem with this film, the additional 30 minutes. They have no reason to be there since they don’t connect to the main story. The thug Batgirl has to deal with is never brought up, or those incidences are never mentioned again from within the main plot of the film. They essentially said that they wanted to add more to Batgirl’s character so she isn’t just a plot item in the original story. I can respect that, but they don’t find a way to make it interesting enough to make the tragic thing that happens to her mean more. Instead of connecting the new footage and story with the obvious main villain, The Joker, they instead waste our time with what feels like a lost episode to one of the many Batman animated cartoons. They throw in this sociopath thug that has no real weight to the second half of the story. I have talked to a few people, saying that the thug is essentially Batgirl’s version of The Joker, but still. Not to say what happens to Batgirl and this thug wasn’t deep and scary, but if you are going to simply dump him in the second half, then why have him at all? Why not do what Jessica Jones did with Jessica and Purple Man? That could have given the reason for  The Joker to be obsessed with wanting to partly ruin her life in the main story. Have her humiliate The Joker in one of his heists, and then have him escape and cause the deed that made the original story infamous, or have The Joker be humiliated by the Gotham police which triggers him to “do the deed”. I know giving  The Joker logical thinking would be odd, but hearing him talk in this film made him seem like a logical individual (even if he is still a bit nutty). Now then, let’s talk about the notorious scene of Batgirl and Batman having sex on a rooftop. Thankfully, she is of legal age so it doesn’t get too creepy, but I have seen this happen a couple of times in the comics, and once in Batman Beyond, and, well, I don’t think it works. I never thought it worked having Batgirl be romantically tied to Batman. I can see her being sort of fan-girlish around him or like a daughter he never had, but sexually tied? Yeah, no. Also, it’s never mentioned again when the actual plot happens. It’s so infuriating to watch this movie, knowing that the additional footage really doesn’t do anything new with the actual plot, because there is some real good stuff in the later part of the film. They don’t even fix the main problem with The Killing Joke, where the incident of Batgirl getting shot and worse (I won’t say what was suggested happened to her), with how she was more of a plot element than an actual character or have any major reason to be there. They call this “Stuffed into the Fridge”. Essentially, something bad happens to a character just because they wanted it to happen.

By the way, this film got an R rating, and it really didn’t earn it. This is no more edgy than a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit or Criminal Minds episode. This has to stop, really. Unless your movie deserves it, don’t think giving it an R rating is going to make it any more desirable. Just because Deadpool and Batman v Superman made it cool, doesn’t mean every movie needs to be doing it. Sometimes, having creative limitations can make you work harder on making a better product within the barrier. And whoever says you should enjoy this as two movies needs to go rework their logic. I don’t agree with that statement that you should enjoy both plots individually. The additional 30 minutes should have been connected to the main story, and it isn’t.

The animation and art is also a mixed bag. The designs of the characters are fine, and the voice work is excellent, but the animation itself is super janky. It feels very cheap. It comes off like the film’s budget went towards the action sequences and the voice actors. It’s definitely very distracting to see clunky animation for such a famous story in comic books. Even with some of the technical problems Justice League vs Teen Titans had, it still looks good in terms of animation.

So, what is good about this movie? Well, when you get to the actual plot, the story is creepy, atmospheric, and dark. Even though we have seen dark Batman and Joker storylines in animated form, like Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, this is probably one of the creepier stories with how far The Joker goes to break Commissioner Gordon. It’s easily one of the darkest moments ever in DC animation. The voice work is also excellent. It shouldn’t be a surprise with Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong delivering great performances. The two scens of The Joker talking to Gordon, and the ending conversation between Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are easily some of the best moments of DC animation.

I was hugely underwhelmed and annoyed by this movie. If the 30 minutes were done better, the Joker had more of a presence in the beginning with Batgirl, take out the pointless sex scene, and they fix the elements of the original story to be better, I think we could have one of the darkest and best written DC animated films around. I don’t agree with what Bruce Timm said in terms of defending what happens in the movie, and I think they should be ashamed they couldn’t find a better way to make the end product fantastic, which is a word I can’t use on any of the DC animated films that came out this year. If you love the original book or want to own every animated film made by DC, then by all means get it, but I can’t see myself buying this movie physically in the future. I have had a hard time thinking about where I would put this in terms of films, from worst to best of this year. I could argue and point out how terrible the first 30 minutes are, but could put it up in the middle ground area because the second half, while still having problems, is pretty fantastic. I guess I would just say to see it for yourself, and you tell me what you think. I might not like this movie, but believe me, I would rather watch Batman: The Killing Joke over and over, instead of what will be the 50th animation review. Thank you for reading, and see you all next time.

Rating: Lackluster

The Other Side of Animation 36: Justice League vs Teen Titans Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

SPOILERS/HEADS UP: I have seen the previous movies and I am going to spoil what happens in this movie. If you have not yet seen this movie, go buy the movie, watch it, and then come back. Plus, this will apparently help make sure we get more Young Justice/Teen Titans-related projects down the pipeline.

If there was one company that is not doing well with their movies and projects based off of their comic book properties, it would have to be DC. Seriously, think about it. Batman Arkham Knight’s PC port was and still is a disaster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is underperforming since Warner Bros. thought it would be a good idea to get Zack Snyder and Davis S. Goyer to be in charge of one of the most hyped superhero movies of all time (it’s not Fantastic 4 from 2015-failing, but it’s not making a profit), and even some of their better avenues with straight-to-DVD films are lacking in consistent quality. And to be honest, it’s a disappointment all around. DC is trying to be dark and gritty in order to try and counteract Marvel, but it is not working all the time. Usually, I think DC’s animated series and straight-to-DVD movies are pretty top-notch, with just one or two exceptions. Sadly, DC and Warner Bros. aren’t flawless with their good stuff either, since they make questionable moves like cancelling Young Justice because the viewership was bigger with female fans than male. Because, you know, apparently shows that cater to either genders or anyone, in fact, can’t be successful. Man, I’m really snarky in this opening bit. Anyway, I decided to check out DC’s newest straight-to-DVD offering with Justice League vs. Teen Titans. This film was released last month in April, 2016, and is in an interesting situation, since if this film does sell well, we could get more Teen Titans, Young Justice, and similar projects including films and TV shows out of this. As you shall soon see, in my personal opinion, I wish this wasn’t the film to be that savior.

The film revolves around Damian Wayne, voiced by Stuart Allan, after the events of Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin, and Batman: Bad Blood. After helping out the Justice League take down a group of supervillains, Damian, being the most unlikable human being in that universe (we will get to that), decides to chew out Batman and the Justice League for being not as progressive with their strategies as he is. Essentially, Batman has had enough of Damian’s obnoxious attitude, and with no exaggeration, forces him to join the Teen Titans, a group of teenage superheroes. The Titans include Beast Boy, voiced by Brandon Soo Hoo, Raven, voiced by Taissa Farmiga, Blue Beetle, voiced by Jake T. Austin, and their leader, Starfire, voiced by Kari Wahlgren. While this is all going on, a sinister evil is trying to make his way into the real world, and is known as Trigon, voiced by the Punisher himself, Jon Bernthal. Can the Titans stop the evil from coming to this world?

Let’s get the bad out of the way. Why? Because for the few good things this film does well, it does a lot more wrong than right. Let’s start with the actual title of the film, Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Well, it’s a blatant lie. Sure, the Teen Titans do fight the Justice League, but instead of being a well-executed reason to have such a conflict, in reality, it’s more, “Trigon-possessed Justice League members wiping the floor with the Teen Titans in a very one-sided fight.”  If this was called Teen Titans: Day of Trigon or something that actually had anything remotely close to actually what happens, then it would be fine. It’s just bad marketing. Plus, the fight only lasts about three or four minutes, and that’s it. However, I can forgive the marketing, since it’s not the biggest problem with this movie. No, the biggest problem with this movie is Damian Wayne a.k.a, the newest Robin. He is by far one of the most unlikable, obnoxious, tedious, overpowered male fantasy, cocky, arrogant, and most despicable characters I have ever seen in my time of reviewing. Yeah, you can argue that he is a super-strong character because he is the son of Batman and the grandfather of Ra’s al Ghul, but that doesn’t mean that he’s a good character or that the stories that Damian has been a part of support his horrible traits. He is so incredibly disrespectful towards everyone, and doesn’t really change. I mean, technically he does, but it doesn’t feel rewarding or natural. They don’t do enough story-oriented events to make Damian more humble or have any known character arc. Heck, since he is in the film, he basically takes up 70% of the time that could have been used for the other characters, since they barely get any screen time, and it takes away from the actual lead of the story, Raven. It’s her story, since she is the daughter of Trigon, and yet, she doesn’t get a lot of development because Damian’s story hogs the running time. Over his development of the DC animated films, he has shown to be able to take down villains, and have encounters that overpower groups of heroes. For example, in Son of Batman, he takes down Deathstroke, a.k.a one of the most dangerous assassins in the entire DC universe by himself with no help! He even takes down a bunch of unkillable Trigon demons when the Titans couldn’t take them down by himself. Damian even beats Beast Boy at a DDR-style game that he has never played before on his first try. They show him struggle a little, but in the end, he bests Beast Boy. I just can’t stand this character, and throughout the entire film, I wanted reach through the screen and punch his disrespectful face. He shows no respect towards anyone, and the story keeps supporting his attitude. Even when he gets blasted by Blue Beetle and almost dies, he doesn’t give an apology for how he acted. Nope, he just gives one of those half-baked apologies that you know aren’t really serious. Again, due to how much Damian hogs the movie, in terms of screen time, it leaves everyone else pretty boring and one-dimensional. It’s ironic since the other members of the team are much more likable and interesting than him. Oh, and it’s sad how Starfire is the leader of the team and a pretty likable character in her own way, but is constantly getting the tar kicked out of her. It’s funny that Trigon, the big baddie of the film, played one of the more interesting character actors of recent history, is barely in the movie. When he arrives, it’s basically the last 10 minutes of the film. Really, due to Damian, everything else suffers. And they need to stop trying to push Raven with Damian. He doesn’t deserve her.

The animation is nicely done, and the overall tone of the film is similar to Young Justice, but I think there is a bit too much blur used, and they could have made certain characters not act like punching bags. The voice acting and script are also hindered with a lot of the voices and lines either sounding flat, clunky, forced, or not really interesting. I mean, how do you have all these talented actors and not be able bring out an overall great job? Oh, and check this out, Blue Beetle isn’t even on the cover. Cyborg, who doesn’t have a lot of airtime in the movie, gets a huge slice of the box art. I understand they wanted to bring in the viewers and fans of the original Teen Titans, including the cool Terra Easter egg at the end, but that just seems crummy that you leave out a character on the box.

So, how would I have fixed this movie if I was in charge of it? Easy, make this a stand-alone film, or not part of the current animated DC universe that was started with Justice League War. I would have not added Damian, or at the very least, made a more likable and enjoyable version to watch, give everyone equal time to develop, and probably focus on a different story other than another “rise of Trigon”-style story. I would have also made the film longer than 70 minutes. The biggest problem with this film being connected to the current DC animated universe is that the overall universe has not been that great. It had potential, but due to different story problems and boring characters, it feels like a disappointment in terms of potential.

Okay, so I went on and on about how Damian almost single-handedly takes down this entire film’s story, but what do I like about this movie? Well, even if they don’t get a lot of time to develop, I love the interaction between Beast Boy and Blue Beetle. The two were very interesting, and had decent chemistry. I like this film’s Raven, and even though she could have had more non-forced snark, she was the only character I felt invested in. She was always one of the best characters to get to know in a lot of the projects that have used her. The fight scenes are pretty intense and well animated. And even though Damian almost ruins the story, at least the goals and what happens is clear. You know, unlike Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the logic used in that movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I also found some the lines in the movie pretty well done and funny. Especially the little interaction between Cyborg and Batman, where Batman asks where all the food goes when Cyborg eats.

Overall, I’m very disappointed in this project. This should have been a slam dunk, since most everyone loved Teen Titans and Young Justice, but the direction this film takes is 100% wrong. I mean, I think it’s wrong that we have to buy an underwhelming movie to make sure we get more Teen Titans and Young Justice. I might be in the more critical minority, since I’m sure there are people who love this movie, and that’s fine! I just feel like if they weren’t pinning this down as the sole reason for future projects, I would be happier to support it. While it doesn’t hit it out of the park, and has misleading marketing and Damian, there is still some good elements about the film. I can only recommend purchasing this film either because you are A. a hardcore fan of DC or B. wants more Teen Titans and Young Justice-related products. Well, this was underwhelming, and I might recommend purchasing this film with a begrudging shrug, but let’s look at one of the more odd animated films I have seen with Mind Game. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and see you next time!

 

Rating: Lackluster!