Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Look, I loved doing the Month of Spooks. But god damn, have I missed being able to talk about other kinds of movies. So let’s talk about a children’s film.

Ladies and gentlemen… “How to Train Your Dragon”.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is the son of a great dragon-slaying viking (Gerard Butler), yet he himself is expected to reach his father’s legacy. And one day when he meets an injured dragon, he soon learns that these beasts might not just be bloodthirsty monsters. So now we have our children’s fantasy adventure story. And by Odin’s beard, this story is great. Yeah, sure, we’ve seen similar premises done before. But the care they put into how their storytelling is presented here is quite astonishing. The story here is told in a really mature way that doesn’t treat its audience like absolute idiots, like so many kid’s movies do. And by the end I was emotionally invested in the story, thanks to the clever and nuanced storytelling.

The characters in this are colorful, layered (for the most part), unique, and really interesting. First we have Hiccup, son of a great viking, but more of a scrawny wimp himself. He’s a smart young dude, relying on wits to get him through shit rather than actual force. And he has an interesting and fun arc in this movie that I really enjoyed following. And I think Jay Baruchel did a great job voicing the character. We then have Gerard Butler as his burly dad, and he’s great. You get America Ferrera as Astrid, a local girl that Hiccup may have a bit of a crush on, and she’s great in the role. You get Craig Ferguson as another viking/comic relief, and he’s great. And in other supporting roles you have people like Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, T.J. Miller, and more, and they all do a great job. Really, it’s a top notch cast.

The score for the movie was composed by John Powell, and it was absolutely wonderful. Big and epic, but also small and intimate. Epic and exciting, but also subtle and emotionally resonant. It manages to capture every emotion one would want in a movie like this.

Based on a novel by Cressida Cowell, “How to Train Your Dragon” was written by William Davies, Dean DeBlois, and Chris Sanders, with DeBlois and Sanders handling direction. And just like the story and characters before it, the craft on display here is marvelous. Everything in the direction is carefully considered, not a single frame is pure filler, everything exists either do develop a character or to add nuance to the story. Which leads us to the animation, which is absolutely spectacular. It’s highly detailed, and makes for some absolutely gorgeous images, especially during the action scenes, which are some of the best I’ve ever seen in an animated feature. The final set piece alone is one of the best I’ve seen in relatively recent movies. And with this being an animated kid’s film, there’s of course plenty of humor throughout… and it’s funny, I laugh. Slapstick, snappy comebacks, it’s all there, and it’s funny.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 99% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,1/10 and is ranked #189 on the “top 250” list. It was also nominated for 2 Oscars in the categories of Best animated feature and Best original score.

“How to Train Your Dragon” is one of the best animated films I’ve seen in recent years. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, great music, fantastic directing/animation, and funny comedy. Time for my final score. *Aye*. My final score for “How to Train Your Dragon” is a 9,90/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “How to Train Your Dragon” is now completed.

I can now see what all the fuss was about.

Movie Review: Constantine: City of Demons (2018)

Two animations in a row? I know, fucking insanity up in this joint. But hey, it’s my blog and my Month of Spooks, so I can do whatever I want. Besides, why wouldn’t I wanna talk about DC’s arguably most well known horror character?

Ladies and gents… “Constantine: City of Demons”.

When his daughter is thrown into a supernaturally induced coma, Chas Chandler (Damien O’Hare) enlists the help of his old mate, John Constantine (Matt Ryan), to hopefully fix this whole situation. And as they look further into the situation, they not only get into new troubles, but old wounds get opened back up too. I thought the story here was good. Leans a bit too heavily on exposition during the first act, but as soon as we get into act two, things aren’t quite so info-dumpy. And I have to admit that I didn’t fully see where this story was going, it managed to throw me for a loop multiple times, telling a narrative that understands the “Hellblazer” mythos and themes, while still making it accessible to anyone unfamiliar with the material. That latter point might be somewhat related to the info-dumping in the first act, which makes it kind of a double-edged sword, but that’s just how shit ends up some times. But yeah… the story’s good, if a bit flawed.

The characters in this are flawed, colorful, and overall quite interesting. Constantine in this is more like in the comics rather than how he’s portrayed in the Keanu Reeves movie. He’s British, snarky, and a bit aloof. And while he’s not quite as morally flexible as he is in the comics, they do nod towards that idea a fair bit throughout this movie, which makes him a bit more interesting. And Matt Ryan (in his fourth appearance) is great in the role. Damien O’Hare as John’s trusted friend Chas Chandler does a great job as the committed and brave, yet slightly impulsive type. And in the supporting cat we got people like Laura Baily, Robin Atkin Downes, Jim Meskimen, Rachel Kimsey, Rick Wasserman, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Kevin Riepl, and it was alright. It is overall a well composed score that worked fine for the movie, but I felt that it might’ve been a little bit on the bland-ish side. It does have some cool chorals that make it stand out a little bit, but for the most part it’s your typical orchestral stuff with occasional synthesizers for effect. Again, not bad, pretty good, but a little bland.

Of course based on the legendary DC/Vertigo Character, “Constantine: City of Demons” was directed by Doug Murphy, who I think did a good job with it. He doesn’t force a lot of needless action or an unnecessarily rapid pace, instead opting for a decent bit of downtime, letting characters breathe and letting the audience take in what’s going on a bit. And even when there is action, it isn’t typical action-action with fists flying all about the place or flashy spells pew-pewing all day long, which I think is a fun change of pace. And the animation carrying it all, I think is good (based on the standards of these lower budget DC animated flicks). There are some minor things that distracted in it, like some of the blood splatter effects, but for the most part the animation looks nice and wonderfully brings out some of the nastier stuff in the DC universe.

This movie has been decently well received. On imdb.com (which is the only site with a clear number), it has a score of 7,4/10.

While it isn’t perfect, “Constantine: City of Demons” is still a very enjoyable take on the titular Hellblazer. It has a good plot, good characters, great performances, okay music, and really good directing/animation. Though it is unfortunately brought down a bit by a little too much exposition dumping, and some minor animations niggles. Time for my final score. *Bollocks*. My final score for “Constantine: City of Demons” is an 8,77/10. So while flawed, I’d say it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Constantine: City of Demons” is now completed.

“Abraka-fooking-dabra” – John Constantine.

Series Review: The Strain – Season 1 (2014)

Hey, finally a tv show in the Month of Spooks.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Strain” season 1.

After a plane filled with dead people lands in New York, a mysterious viral outbreak begins, turning people into savage, vampiric creatures. And it’s up to Doctor Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) to find out what the hell is going on. So now we have our horror story. And it’s a good one. Sure, it does lean into some classic vampire tropes, but it also plays around with others to create something that feels fresh and unique in television. Admittedly the first few episodes are a bit on the slow side. They’re not bad, they carry a fair bit of intrigue, but they feel a bit like a drag at times. But when you get past them, and the plot truly gets going, it is an utterly compelling and quite entertaining vampire thriller.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, and quite interesting. Corey Stoll plays Ephraim Goodweather, a CDC scientist who has to investigate this mysterious viral outbreak. Eph (as he’s called by so many) has a lot of personal flaws and demons in his past, and seeing him have to deal with those in tandem with this intense outbreak makes him an interesting character. And Stoll is great in the roll. Yes, pun intended. Next we have David Bradly as Abraham Setrakian, a mysterious old man who seems to know a lot about what’s going on with this whole situation. We learn a lot about him as the show goes along, and I don’t wanna ruin it (’cause it’s good and should be experienced rather than told). And Bradley is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Mia Maestro, Kevin Durand, Miguel Gomez, Richard Sammel, Sean Astin, Jonathan Hyde, Ben Hyland, Ruta Gedmintas, Robin Atkin Downes, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the show/season was composed by Ramin Djawadi (oh sweet), and it’s pretty good (what do you mean “pretty”?). It’s not among Djawadi’s best work, but he still did a really solid job, giving us some decently tense pieces when needed, and some more emotional tracks in others. It’s pretty good.

Based on a series of novels by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, the show was created by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, with writing and directing by them and some other cool people. And the craft in this show is pretty spectacular. The direction creates a fair bit of tension, while still making us feel intimate with the characters. And fuck me sideways, the use of colored lighting in this show is fucking magnificent. Reds, greens, blues, yellows, it is stunning to look at. And the visual effects are pretty great too. Since it is a Del Toro production, there’s a lot of disgusting-looking practical creature effects, with some CG mixed in at times. And god damn, it is so cool to see that here, since it makes everything going on feel more real. It also kind of adds to the horror, as it doesn’t make the scary creatures look all shiny and fake. It’s some creepy stuff.

This show/season has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10.

Season 1 of “The Strain” may drag a bit at the start, but it ultimately ends up being an effective and highly entertaining vampire thriller. It has a good plot, good characters, great performances, good music, and great writing/directing/effects/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “The Strain” is an 8,67/10. So while flawed, I still think it’s definitely worth watching.

My review of “The Strain” season 1 is now completed.

David Bradley’s a bit of a badass. Honestly never expected that.

Movie Review: Batman: Bad Blood (2016)

Name: Markus. Likes: DC animation. Has he stated this fact many times before: Yes. Shall we move on to the review: Yes.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Batman: Bad Blood”.

After a tough battle with a new enemy, Batman (Jason O’Mara) goes missing. So Dick Grayson (Sean Maher) has to take up the mantle to keep Gotham’s criminals at bay while also trying to find out what the hell happened to Bruce. All of this while a mysterious woman calling herself Batwoman (Yvonne Strahovski) enters the scene to take on the city’s criminals. So now we have our plot. And is it any good? Sure. While not as intimate and interesting as the previous movie, “Batman vs. Robin”, or as dark and layered as “Mask of the Phantasm”, it is a functional plot. For the most part I just followed along, finding the journey of Dick and Damien (Stuart Allan) interesting, while the big mystery plot to be just fine. It isn’t quite as focused as I would’ve wanted it, but I also didn’t dislike it. It’s pretty good.

The characters here are for the most part fun and interesting. For the first time in this cinematic universe, Dick Grayson gets to take center stage. He’s like a more fun version of Batman, and I enjoy the levity that he brings to the table without sacrificing any emotion that exists with the character and his relationship to Batman. And Sean Maher is once again great in the role. Stuart Allan once again does the voice of Damien Wayne/Robin, the bastard son of Batman. And I have to say, he’s really grown on me as he’s been given time to develop. His relationship with Dick is one of my favorite parts of these movies. And Allan is great in the role. Jason O’Mara of course once again plays Bruce Wayne/Batman (briefly) in the movie, and he’s of course great. Alfred of course also returns, but this time he’s voiced by James Garrett instead of David McCallum. And while it’s a bit weird to have a different voice for him, I think Garrett does a really good job voicing Alfred. Yvonne Stranhovski plays Batwoman, a mysterious new vigilante that we get to know through the movie. And she’s a pretty interesting character. She’s like Batman but a woman… and she uses guns… yeah, she’s pretty cool. And Strahovski does a really good job in the role. Then without getting too in-depth/spoiler-y with more characters/actors here, we get some realy solid supporting performances from people like Steve Blum, Gaius Charles, Ernie Hudson, Morena Baccarin, Robin Atkin Downes, Matthew Mercer, John DiMaggio, and more. ’tis a well acted movie.

As with a lot of DC animated movies these days, the score for “Batman: Bad Blood” was composed by Frederik Wiedmann (who I’ve had some pleasant interactions with on twitter. Just thought I’d mention that for fun). And he did a really good job with his score here. It’s fun, cool, exciting, badass, and just overall helps in making certain scenes a bit better. Not saying that it’s his best DC score (that still goes to “Flashpoint Paradox), but the music here is still really good.

Jay Oliva is the director for this one, and he did a good job. The directing/animation has a lot of energy, keeping it from feeling dull. As for the animation itself, it’s fine. In action scenes it flows very nicely and is a ton of fun to watch. In slower, more talky scenes it is just fine. Seen better, seen worse. It’s fine.

This has been decently well received (despite having barely any data on my usual sites). On Rotten Tomatoes it exists but has no rating. On Metacritic it doesn’t exist at all. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,8/10.

“Batman: Bad Blood” isn’t one of the best DC animated movies ever, but it’s still an entertaining little action flick. It has an okay plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and good directing/animation. My main flaw comes in the form of the plot feeling a bit unfocused. Time for my final score. *I am the night*. My final score for “Batman: Bad Blood” is an 8,76/10. While flawed, I’d say it’s worth buying.

My review of “Batman: Bad Blood” is now completed.

This has put me in the mood to rewatch “Mystery of the Batwoman”…

Movie Review: Batman vs. Robin (2015)

Hi. I’m Markus. I like DC animated movies. And now I’m gonna talk about one. So here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Batman vs. Robin”.

It’s been a while since Batman (Jason O’Mara) found out that he has a mildly homicidal son (Stuart Allan), and he’s having some trouble trying to raise him while also trying to save Gotham. And not only does he have trouble with his son, but his life is made even more difficult when a mysterious organization called The Court of Owls comes to town to cause trouble. So now we have our Batman story. And I’m not gonna lie, I thought that the story was really good. For the most part it’s a drama focusing on the struggling relationship between Bruce and Damien, and I found myself quite engaged in that stuff as the plot went along. I was a bit afraid that the Court of Owls part of the plot would make it all feel overstuffed or unfocused, but it was integrated into the plot really well, even being woven into the family drama part quite well. Yeah, this is a really solid plot.

What I like about (most of) the characters here is that the plot made them interesting and worth caring about. Jason O’Mara of course returns as Batman and he still kills it as the voice of our favorite Nocturnal Rodent Person. Just like in “Son of Batman”, Stuart Allan voices Damien Wayne, the dangerous son of Bruce Wayne. And while Damien could be a bit of mixed bag in the other movie, I really liked him in this. He’s still a bit of a brat, but they’ve done enough to make him feel a bit more layered. And Stuart Allan is really good as Damien. Then we have Sean Maher who returns as Nightwing, and he’s still a lot of fun compared to the moody Bruce. But he’s not just there for laughs as he plays a vital part in it. And Maher is great as Nightwing. David McCallum returns as Alfred, and he’s still the butler that we all know and love. But seriously, this Alfred is great and McCallum is great as the voice. Then we have Jeremy Sisto (who once voice Batman) as Talon, the Court of Owls member get to know the most throughout the movie. He’s a fairly interesting character that we get to learn some interesting stuff about. And Sisto is really good in the role. And the final one I want to mention is that we get Kevin Conroy (motherfucking Batman) in a flashback as Thomas Wayne. If that isn’t an awesome casting, then I don’t know what is. Anyway, I just wanted to mention that. Oh, and Weird Al Yankovic voices The Dollmaker, and I didn’t recognize his voice at all (yeah, he’s great). Overall, this is a great cast.

The score for the movie was composed by DC animation regular Frederik Wiedmann who once again gave us a really solid score. Sure, some tracks are your typical bombastic, heroic, action-y tunes that just sort of pass through. But then we have a couple of other tracks that take a more dramatic approach to make an attempt at elevating the emotion of certain scenes, and for the most part he succeeds pretty well. There’s also one track (can’t find it) heard early on that sounds like something right out of a horror movie, and it’s awesome. So yeah, the score is great.

The movie was directed by Jay Oliva and his directing here has a lot of energy to it, but he still let’s the quieter moments sink in a bit too. Which is probably why this is 80 minutes, compared to the usual 75. As for the animation, it’s good. Not the best that DC has pumped out, but it still looks pretty good. It especially comes alive during the action scenes where movement is fast, fluid, and just looks really cool. And the action here is overall a lot of fun.

This movie barely has any data on my usual sites. But on Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating (based on only 5 reviews). On Metacritic it doesn’t exist. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,1/10.

My expectation weren’t the highest for “Batman vs. Robin”, but I can happily say that it is a really good entry in the DC animated movie universe. It has a really good plot, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing/animation. Time for my final score. *I’m Batman*. My final score for “Batman vs. Robin” is a 9,55/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Batman vs. Robin” is now completed.

Batman as Batman’s dad… clever.

Movie Review: Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

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I am one of those people that has a soft spot for DC’s animated movies. I’m not saying that I think all of them are great, but when a new one is announced I get a little excited. And this year we officially got one announced that is based on one of the most beloved graphic novels of all time. So… how is this adaptation? Well, I can’t speak for what you think… but we can get into the review and find out what I think. So let’s go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Batman: The Killing Joke”.

The Joker (Mark Hamill) has once again escaped from Arkham Asylum, this time with a plan to terrorize the Gordon family to prove a certain point. So it’s up to Batman (Kevin Conroy) to find him and bring him to justice. And the stuff we get here is really solid. It is a dramatic, tense, and almsot disturbing plot where we get to see Joker do these horrible things, while also giving us a glimpse into his past. And all that stuff is great. However, the plot-based stuff isn’t 100% perfect. There’s a 30 minute period at the beginning of the film that has nothing to do with the actual “Killing Joke” stuff, instead having some plot focusing on Batman and Batgirl (Tara Strong) chasing some criminals. I understand what they tried to do here, adding some runtime to the movie while also trying to give us more of a reason to care about Batgirl. But I never felt that it really added anything worthwhile to the plot, instead just adding 30 minutes of average(ish) entertainment. Seriously, you can skip the first 30 minutes of the movie and not miss a single important thing. So the “Killing Joke” stuff is great, but it takes a while to get there.

The characters featured in this movie are ones that all know and love… except for like several in that opening 30 minutes. But the ones we came to see, they are very well represented. Kevin Conroy once again did the voice of Batman (I don’t think he will ever quit, #SteadyPaycheck). And really, I don’t have to say anything. He is as phenomenal as ever, he really is the Batman. Mark Hamill as the Joker… Yeah, he’s fuckin’ masterful. Let me put it like this: Nicholson and Ledger were both really great as the character, but Mark Hamill really is THE JOKER. His voice is iconic and simply perfect for the character (#HesMyJoker). We also got Tara Strong, returning to her role as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. And she was really good. We also got Ray Wise (not a returning Bat-cast member) as Commissioner Jim Gordon. And he was really good in the role. Not as good as Gary Oldman or even Jonathan Banks, but still really good. Then the rest of the supporting cast was rounded out by a lot of other voice actors. All of them are very talented, but I don’t want to sit here and write all of them down here. But let it be known that they did a great job!

The score for the movie was composed by Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion, and Kristopher Carter. And it is a very exciting and very well composed score, perfectly fitting this type of action movie. I will also mention that there is an actual song in there too (as in a song with lyrics) and it is pretty amazing. And the scene where it’s featured is nothing short of a masterpiece.

DC animation regular Sam Liu stands as director of this movie, and I’d say it is for the most part a well directed movie. Scenes play out at a decent pace. However… the animation leaves a little bit to be desired. And I know that can be the thing with these DC animated movies, but you’d think they’d up the ante a bit with such an iconic story combined with the fact that this played in theaters. But here’s also the thing: Some scenes look great, with a decent amount of detail in them and overall really good flow of animation. But then some bits look kind of bad. Some movements look stiff and kind of jittery.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 48% positive rating. On Metacritic it doesn’t even have a score. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,6/10.

Guys, in the end, “Batman: The Killing Joke” disappointed me a bit. Is it as bad as some say? No. But it’s also not among the best DC animated features. It as a good plot, good characters, great voice acting, really good music, and some decent animation. howeer it is bogged down a bit by those first 30 minutes and the animation being as inconsistent as I mentioned. Time for my final score. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! My final score for “Batman: The Killing Joke” is an 8,51/10. So it is flawed, but I think that it can still be worth buying.
Worth buying

My review of “Batman: The Killing Joke” is now completed.

And for those asking: No, I have not read the graphic novel. I know, shame on me!