Saturday, August 8, 2015

Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem (2015) - Review

batman unlimited monster mayhem poster wallpaper picture cyborg green arrow batman nightwing red robin

The second Batman Unlimited animated movie is out. I was not impressed with the first one (Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts). In that movie, Penquin/Oswald Cobblepot had assembled a group of animal-themed supervillains (Cheetah, Killer Croc, Man-Bat and Silverback) to take over the world. That plan and the movie, both failed.

This time, it is The Joker (Troy Baker) himself, who brings together a team of monster-themed supervillains (Scarecrow, Clayface, Solomon Grundy and Silver Banshee) to take over Gotham and the world.

The trouble starts on Halloween night when Solomon Grundy (Fred Tatasciore) and Silver Banshee (Kari Wuhrer) break out of the prison. They steal a car and are wreaking havoc in the city streets. Nightwing (Will Friedle) and Green Arrow (Chris Diamantopoulos) try to stop them. Batman (Roger Craig Smith) and Red Robin (Yuri Lowenthal) also give chase in the Batmobile.

batman unlimited monster mayhem villains scarecrow clayface solomon grundy silver banshee poster wallpaper picture

Scarecrow (Brian T. Delaney) comes to the villains' rescue and infects Nightwing and Green Arrow with his fear gas.

Gogo Shoto (Noel Fisher), head of a video game company is kidnapped for his software skills. The Joker is planning to unleash a virus on the world and plans to use Gogo as his unwitting pawn.

Also in the fray is Victor Stone/Cyborg (Khary Payton), who is visiting Gotham and becomes involved in Joker's ongoing shenanigans.

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Can Batman and the rest of the heroes stop the Joker from executing his evil plans...You bet, they do.

The animation quality is not up to the usual high DC standards. The character designs look OK. The worst is surprisingly reserved for Bruce Wayne/Batman himself. He looks more like a teenager and not like a seasoned crime fighter. In one of the scenes, Batman looks weird as he drives the Batcycle.

bruce wayne batman eating sandwich bread batcave batman unlimited monster mayhem poster wallpaper image picture

The Batman Unlimited movies lack the thematic complexity and/or the mature tone of the recent DC Animated movies. That is not a surprise, since these movies are not part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series. These  movies are based on the Mattel's toy line and are clearly targeted at a very young demographic.

Accordingly, the tone and even the jokes are pretty juvenile in nature. A kid appears twice in the movie, once taking selfie with Batman and again in the climax, to take selfie with the villains (who happily agree for the photo opportunity). In another scene, a character is playing Batman himself in a video game in a clear reference to the recently released Batman: Arkham Knight game. The game had the marketing line: Be the Batman.

The plot is pretty much non-existent and is made up of one fight scene after another. But the action scenes get tiresome really quick, especially the one long fight scene that starts at the abandoned amusement park and just goes on and on.

The climax is heavily inspired by The Matrix Revolutions and Batman rides what strongly resembles a Dinobot transformer, seen in the latest Transformers movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction. And in addition, the city wide parade scene reminds me one of the finale of Batman (1989).

clayface villain batman unlimited monster mayhem poster image wallpaper image picture

The best bits involve Clayface. The movie makes full use of his awesome powers. If nothing else, this movie will at least be remembered for focussing the spotlight on one of the most underused villains in Batman's Rogues Gallery.

The worst ones involve Grundy. His attempts at humor fall flat most of the time. Even Silver Banshee's singing in the climax induces groans.

Recommended to children only. Adults will most probably get bored fast.

Check out the trailer below:

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) - Recap and Review

Tom Cruise Ethan Hunt Mission Impossible Rogue Nation poster wallpaper image picture screensaver

The opening scene is set in London. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) visits a record shop. After proving his identity using a set of code words to the store girl (Hermione Corfield), Ethan obtains the record that would provide instructions for his next mission. He has been on the trail of a terrorist organization, “The Syndicate”.

Ethan realizes that his identity has been compromised when it is revealed that the recording itself has been authored by none other the Syndicate itself. Ethan is captured and the store girl is murdered by an as-yet unidentified agent of The Syndicate.

Ethan is held hostage by Janik “Bone Doctor” Vinter (Jens Hultén). But before Janik can inflict any substantial torture on Ethan, he is rescued by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Ilsa is a British Intelligence MI6 agent whose present assignment is to infiltrate The Syndicate.

Back in Washington D.C., CIA Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is dead set on getting the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) dissolved and have the IMF's assets and agents restored to CIA. IMF Agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) tries his best to salvage his agency's reputation, but to no avail.

Simon Pegg Benji Dunn Alec Baldwin CIA Director Hunley polygraph test Mission Impossible Rogue Nation review poster

Hunley believes that The Syndicate is a mere excuse created by Ethan to justify IMF's existence. He even subjects Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) to weekly polygraph tests, in the hopes of getting some kind of information on Ethan. Benji loves playing Halo 5 game and hates being interrupted by such mundane details.

Benji manages to beat such tests, despite the fact that he is in regular touch with Ethan. A desperate Ethan seeks Benji's help in order to apprehend the man who killed the store girl and dismantle the organization.

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This man is revealed to be one Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Solomon manages to stay one step ahead and has both Ethan and Benji framed for the assassination of the Austrian Chancellor.

With the IMF disbanded, Ethan has to use his wits and skills to clear his name and have the craft Lane behind bars.

The thing that struck me most about this movie was how much it has been inspired from the Sherlock Holmes stories and specifically, the Robert Downey Jr. movies Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (SH: AGoS).

Ethan Hunt Ilsa Faust Mission Impossible poster wallpaper image picture screensaver

Drew Pierce is credited with the story. Drew's previous credit include Iron Man 3 and is currently working on Sherlock Holmes 3. It is not much of a stretch of imagination that he has borrowed ideas from the previous two Sherlock Holmes movies.

In the first Sherlock Holmes movie, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) is working for Professor Moriarty. He orders her to work with Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) with the clear purpose of utilizing his detective skills to retrieve a device. When Irene Adler seems to be lagging in her mission, he threatens to have Sherlock killed. In the sequel, Moriarty poisons her in order to punish her for her failure. 

There are clear parallels between Sherlock/Irene and Ethan/Ilsa. Ilsa is Ethan's equal and outwits him a few times in the movie. Ethan also refers to her as The Woman”. And Ilsa's acting on the behest of Solomon Lane to retrieve the data from Ethan also reminds one of Irene Adler working on Professor Moriarty's orders to retrieve the device.

There is even a scene in which Ilsa undresses in front of Ethan, as he watches her naked back. Readers might remember that there is a similar encounter between Holmes and Adler in the hotel in the first Sherlock Holmes movie.

Rebecca Ferguson Ilsa Faust Mission Impossible Rogue Nation poster wallpaper image picture screensaver

At least, this version of Sherlock and Irene do not make out at any point in the movie, unlike the RDJ movies or the CBS Elementary or the recent Russian TV Series. Ilsa might still appear in the inevitable sequel...

There is an action set piece set in an opera in Austria, that should remind readers of a similar scene in SH: AGoS. Another nod is Ethan's diorama on the wall detailing what he thinks are related events and incidents that have been orchestrated by Solomon Lane. In SH: AGoS, Sherlock maintains a diorama listing what he thinks are the worldwide criminal activities of Professor Moriarty.

One of the popular fan theory surrounding the Sherlock Holmes Canon is that Professor Moriarty is a creation of Holmes, since Dr Watson has never actually seen him. This is indirectly referred to in the beginning of the movie, when Hunley states that The Syndicate is just a figment of Ethan's imagination.

Benji resembles Dr Watson in the scene in which Ethan asks him to leave stating his inability to protect him. Benji gets emotional and boldly asserts that he is Ethan's friend and he firmly intends to stick through with Ethan to the very end, despite Ethan's insistence on him leaving. In The Final Problem, Sherlock asks Dr Watson to let him face Moriarty alone to which Dr Watson bluntly refuses.

Sean Harris Solomon Lane The Syndicate Mission Impossible Rogue Nation review poster

The bad guy (Moriarty) is Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), formerly of British Intelligence. His style of working is similar to Moriarty. And just like Moriarty, Lane is referred to as He in many scenes. References are made to his vast network of resources and agents. Ilsa mentions that Ethan has met his match in Lane.

Janik “Bone Doctor” Vinter is Moriarty's right hand man, Sebastian Moran. The actor, Jens Hultén even bears a passing resemblance to Paul Anderson who played Moran in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

To quote Sherlock Holmes himself from The Empty House: “The parallel is exact”.

Coming back to the movie, the movie is not as exciting as the previous entry, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. That movie was fun and had a momentum that lasted from the first frame till the last.

This one pales in comparison. The action sequences are not as gripping. The climax involves an incredibly boring fight between Ilsa and Janik. I did like the Road Rage type kick Ethan gives to a bad guy during the motorcycle chase scene.

The abject objectification of Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa Faust character is a major eye sore. There are a number of scenes in which the camera gazes too long at her posterior. At least, Ilsa is smart enough to remove her high heel shoes before each action scene. Something that another female lead character famously failed to do so in a recent global Dino blockbuster.

The movie did have some postives. The scene in which Ethan, Ilsa and Benji discuss about the simple disguise using masks not working anymore was a nice touch. As was the scene in which Benji confidently states that Ethan can hold his breath underwater for a superhuman period of time.

Recommended only to die-hard fans of the Mission Impossible franchise and/or Tom Cruise.

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