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  • Canister X Movie Review #55: LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite! (2013)

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    LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite! (2013)
    Written by David A. Goodman
    Directed by Jon Burton
    Runtime 71 min.
    4.5 out of 5

    It’s time for the Man of the Year Awards in Gotham City. The contenders? Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor. The winner? Well, you guessed it: Bruce Wayne. When the Joker crashes the party, Lex sees a potential ally in his fight not only against Superman, but against all superheroes. They forge an uneasy alliance and Lex uses Joker’s expertise in chemistry to create not only a gas that would make everyone vote for him in the upcoming Presidential election, but also Kryptonite. In exchange, Lex would provide Joker with a special brick dismantling device that is able to take apart shiny black objects, something Joker’s all too familiar with thanks to the Dark Knight.

    Meanwhile, Batman and Robin have their hands full with a breakout from Arkham Asylum. Superman shows up to help and eventually the Dynamic Duo and the Man of Steel discover Lex’s and Joker’s partnership. However, team ups aren’t Batman’s strong suit but after a little coaxing from Robin, he learns that sometimes you need outside help to come to victory.

    Just when Batman and Superman think they’ve got Joker and Lex right where they want them, the sinister duo unleash a powerful force that will take the entire Justice League of America to stop.

     

    If you’ve played LEGO Batman 2, then you’re familiar with this story. This movie even uses clips from the game, but then fills in the gaps with fresh animation. So while it’s kind of a rehash, it’s a well-done rehash and, hey, it’s LEGO. LEGO animated movies are few and far between and I hope LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite is the first in a move to bring more and more brick superheroes to the small screen. Perhaps even to the big one one day.

    The animation is crisp, flawless, and well-thought out. The graphics are amazing and convey a plausible world made of LEGO, every detail somehow made from LEGO bricks. No small feat from a design standpoint, creating something so believable yet so . . . LEGO-y.

    With a solid story filled with the right amount of action and humor, I’m glad I added LEGO Batman: The Movie to my superhero movie collection. Besides, the exclusive Clark-Kent-changing-into-Superman LEGO minifigure that comes with it is not too shabby either. Glad to have him as part of my Superman figure collection.

    LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite is recommended for all ages. I loved watching it with my kids and I know you will, too. And if you don’t have kids, then it’s still worth checking out. Again, LEGO? Batman? Superman? DC superheroes? Yes, please!


  • Canister X Movie Review #20: Blankman (1994)

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    Blankman (1994)
    Written by Damon Wayans and J.F. Lawton
    Directed by Mike Binder
    Runtime 92 min.
    4 out of 5

    Two brothers. One a nerd. One a Karate expert. Both grown up and living with their grandma.

    Darryl and Kevin Walker (Damon Wayons and David Alan Grier) have lived in the rough part of town with their grandma since they were kids. As boys they’d run around the apartment with towels tied around their necks, aping Batman and Robin. Now, grown up, Kevin works at the TV station doing over-the-top news stories about aliens while Darryl works as a repairman and has a knack for inventing. After their grandma is killed along with several others while working to support the campaign of a wholesome, upcoming mayor, Darryl vows to make a difference in his city and invents bulletproof long johns, transforming himself into Blankman. He even makes a costume for his brother . . . who quickly refuses to join him. Taking cues from the campy 1960s Batman series, Blankman sets out to help others and uses this super alter ego to work through his grandmother’s death. Meanwhile, Kevin lets Darryl go about his crimefighting business since he’s too busy trying to woo beautiful reporter Kimberly Jonz (Robin Givens), who does real news stories several floors above him. Of course, tensions rise as Kimberly seems to have a thing for Blankman and admires the superhero’s heroic efforts.

    Eventually, Kevin learns who was behind their grandmother’s death: the city’s crime boss, Michael Minelli (Jon Polito). This time, Kevin asks to join Darryl on his crusade and since Darryl is the ever-faithful brother, he produces the outfit Kevin rejected and Kevin becomes Other Guy, Blankman’s sidekick. The two take it upon themselves to hunt down Minelli and bring him to justice, making him pay for what he did once and for all.

     

    Blankman is superhero comedy at its finest. It’s also inspiring as it’s the story of everyday guys trying to do the right thing even if it means putting on a costume and helping others. Damon Wayons and David Alan Grier are hilarious and the chemistry between the two works well. If you didn’t know any better, you would think they were brothers in real life.

    This flick isn’t your usual superhero spoof, though. It took itself seriously in that it wasn’t tongue-in-cheek, but a deliberate superhero comedy with serious undertones. Everything from the social outcast that rises up, to the standing up for what’s right in a world that’s cynical and jaded, to going out of your way to help your fellow man, Blankman hits it hard on all points.

    The jokes and humor are laugh-out-loud funny, the sad moments make you ache inside, and David Alan Grier’s facial expressions are priceless.

    Like I mentioned in my review of The Phantom, sometimes it’s nice to unplug and watch a superhero movie that’s lighthearted, easygoing, and loads of fun.

    There’s plenty of action and excitement in this movie to satisfy those looking for those things, but it’s real strength lies in its heart and that is about two boys rising up to become men in a world that took away the one person they held the most dear.

    As a fair warning, this isn’t a kid’s movie as there’s grown-up humor, innuendo and some language in it so is recommended for ages 14+.

    I’ve been a Blankman fan from the beginning and though it’s been nearly twenty years since it came out, I’m still rooting for a sequel.


  • Canister X Movie Review #10: Batman Forever (1995)

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    Batman Forever (1995)
    Written by Lee Batchler, Janet Scott-Batchler and Akiva Goldsman
    Directed by Joel Schumacher
    Runtime 121 min.
    3 out of 5

    Two Face has been terrorizing Gotham for a while and after executing a terrible sentence at Gotham Circus, he inadvertently changes the life of the Dark Knight forever by setting in motion a chain of events that lead to the birth of Batman’s legendary partner, Robin.

    Continuing in the “double villain” trend as established by Batman Returns, a disgruntled—and stalker-ish—employee of Wayne Industries, Edward Nigma, gets revenge on his boss by becoming the Riddler, and steals his way to the top of the technology enterprise game.

    It’s two-on-two in this third installment of the Batman franchise.

     

    Riddle me this: what do you get when you cross Adam West and Michael Keaton? You get Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Batman, one who is part serious and part humorous. This is the film that I’ve always viewed as the “transition piece” between the dark Bat-flicks done by Tim Burton and the all-out camp-fest that is Batman & Robin.

    Though a bit over the top, the story of Batman Forever is a good one and if you watch it just for that, you’ll highly enjoy it.

    It was the humor that brought this film down.

    First, Batman ain’t funny. He’s so serious and dry he makes Al Gore look like Superman.

    Second, Two Face isn’t funny. Tommy Lee Jones, as much as I enjoy him as an actor, got the character wrong. Two Face is a gangster not another version of the Joker.

    Third, Riddler isn’t all whacky and zany, though by director Joel Schumacher’s choice to cast Jim Carrey in the role, it’s evident he was after Frank Gorshin’s Riddler from the ’60s instead of the comic book Riddler. Jim also got this part shortly after he became super famous so obviously this role was playing to his strength of being a rubber-faced whack job.

    Fourth, though it was a neat thing to add Robin to the mix, Chris O’Donnell was too old, but, I suppose, having a kid running around in an anatomically-correct rubber suit would have raised too many questions.

    This film was 50/50 for me. Had its pluses and minuses. I’m going to leave this in the “decide for yourself” category.


  • Canister X Movie Review #7: Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998)

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    Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998)
    Written by Boyd Kirkland and Randy Rogel
    Directed by Boyd Kirkland
    Runtime 70 min.
    4 out of 5

    In an effort to save his dying wife, Nora, Victor Fries (aka Mr. Freeze) kidnaps Barbara Gordon, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter because his wife needs an organ transplant and Barbara possesses the same rare blood type as his ailing wife. Batman and Robin are quickly hot on his tail and soon it’s a game of cat and mouse between the Dynamic Duo and Mr. Freeze as our heroes seek to find Barbara before it’s too late and she falls victim to Mr. Freeze’s evil plan.

     

    After the amazing thrill that was Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and when I heard they were making another Batman animated movie, I was pumped. Mask of the Phantasm was insanely good and since SubZero was to be done in the same style by the same people, my expectations were high. While not as good as Phantasm, SubZero is still a solid flick. What makes it cool is it’s a team-up movie because Batman’s joined by Robin, something Phantasm didn’t have. You also get to briefly see Batgirl in costume in this one as well.

    Mr. Freeze is a tricky bad guy because while powerful, you take away his freeze gun and he’s got nothing and it’s easy to turn him into a one-trick-pony that way and diminish the complicated character that he is. Not in SubZero. You get to see Mr. Freeze for who he is under that armor and, well, he’s just a heartbroken guy who’s doing what he believes is the right thing. So distraught over his wife’s fatal illness but brilliant enough to figure out a cure, he’s willing to stop at nothing to save the woman he loves, even if that means killing an innocent person in the process. For those who have gone through immense heartbreak, you know how easy it is for unclear thinking to reign and how nothing but emotion takes over.

    This flick also showed how Batman and Robin feed off each other and work together, and not in that “Way to go, chum” way that was the staple of the 1960s Batman series. You see two professional crime fighters playing off each other’s strengths, giving each other ideas, each keeping the other encouraged and balanced as they fight the good fight.

    There was also some 3D animation in this movie, back when 3D was a new thing. While the 3D parts didn’t blend against the 2D as seamlessly as they do nowadays, it did add a “wow” factor to the flick—for its time—and kept Batman on the cutting edge of animation.

    I’m really pleased with this movie and it gets better with each viewing, and with an ending that is both sad but satisfying, Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero is a Bat-movie that should be part of any Bat-fan’s collection.


  • Canister X Movie Review #6: Batman & Robin (1997)

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    Batman & Robin (1997)
    Written by Akiva Goldsman
    Directed by Joel Schumacher
    Runtime 125 min.
    2 out of 5

    A freeze is coming.

    Gotham is under siege, this time by not one but three supervillains: Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Bane (Jeep Swenson).

    The Dynamic Duo (George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell) is called to the rescue despite the tension growing between them. Complicating things, Barbara Pennyworth (Alicia Silverstone), Alfred’s niece, has come to Wayne Manor to liberate her ailing uncle from a life of servitude. She also has a secret: a wild side that needs to be tamed.

    When an all-out assault is declared on Gotham by Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, the caped crusaders rise to the occasion, and this time they have a little help.

     

    If you took the cheesy, camp-filled ’60’s Batman series and shot it with a huge budget, tons of effects and modern day equipment, Batman & Robin is what you’d get (and is what we got).

    Clearly this was the film that killed the Batman franchise. It took eight years for Warner Brothers to recover from the disaster that was this movie.

    The story—the “what it’s about”—though farfetched, is bearable. It’s the dialogue and stupid jokes that catapult this Bat-flick a zillion miles into the campy canyon.

    On the plus side, if you watch this movie solely for the bright colors, glitter and action, you’ll have a good time.

    If you’re looking for substance, go back to the beginning, namely Burton’s ’89 triumph.


  • Canister X Movie Review #4: Batman (1966)

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    Batman (1966)
    Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
    Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
    Runtime 105 min.
    4 out of 5

    Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed!

    The dynamic duo, Batman and Robin, hit the big screen in this 1960s action/adventure camp-stravaganza!

    When the caped crusaders’s most dangerous foes—Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, Penquin—team up and plot to dehydrate the United Nations Security Council, Batman and Robin find themselves in over their heads and must pull out all the stops to put an end to the evil villains’ dastardly plans in this big screen adaptation of the hit TV series.

     

    This movie rocks! And here’s why:

    It’s fast-paced, exciting, and is the definition of superhero fun. What? You mean superheroes can be fun? Of course! Remember dressing up as a kid and flying around the house as Superman or climbing the stairs as Spider-Man or swinging from room to room as Batman? Remember laying waste to all those imaginary villains while also saving the damsel in distress and trying to ignore your parents when they called you for dinner? That was superhero fun. Easy-going, super adventure.

    This film is the same thing . . . but with grownups. Of course, it’s also a giant Batman TV episode complete with such goodies as the animated THOKs and POWs bursting across the screen, crazy bat-gadgets for every occasion (i.e. the [in]famous bat-shark repellent), a host of bat-vehicles, and goofy special effects that work well in the context of the movie.

    What’s brilliant about this Batman movie are the jokes. First, it’s meant to be silly and funny, but the humor is both overt and subtle, whether it’s the dialogue, facial expressions or even actions in some cases. It’s also amazing that despite it being purposely campy, Adam West and Burt Ward—Batman and Robin, respectively—played their characters straight. What I mean is, they played these guys seriously in the crazy, colorful world they inhabited—the characters matching the story, the environment and those they interacted with—and not once did it seem like actors goofing around and simply scoring a paycheck. That’s a feat on its own, in my books.

    Nowadays, superhero filmmakers have a hard time trying to do more than one villain in their movies. Why they don’t go back and look at this flick for help, I don’t know. Granted, the four villains in here all had their TV history backing them up, but they still were able to each stand on their own and each share the spotlight and fulfill their roles. No one is second stringer to anyone else.

    If there is a movie out there that represents superhero fantasy, this flick is it. Everything is so over-the-top that it actually works and you feel like you’re watching an old school comic book come to life. Joel Schumacher tried to recreate this with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin and wasn’t able to pull it off. The big reason, in my mind, is because he tried to merge the old with the new and that’s like mixing black and white—you get a bunch of gray and no one knows what’s what.

    Anyway, I love this movie. My kids love this movie and I let them watch it because compared to the ultra dark Bat-flicks of today, I need to know they’ll have fun watching a Bat-movie, will have at least a general sense of what’s going on, and won’t get nightmares after. (I mean, Heath Ledger’s Joker creeps me out and I’m an adult.)

    Batman is one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s lighthearted, it’s funny, it’s exciting, and is a showcase of everything that made the TV series such a hit, even now, nearly fifty years later.

    Recommended.