DC League Of Super Pets (2022)

Quick Summary: Krypto The Superdog teams up with a group of superpowered pets to save the world from a hairless guinea pig.

Oh joy, a DC movie, animated, aimed at kids, this could be terrible. It’s not though, it’s funny, has a lot of heart in it, and makes the most of how ridiculous the premise is. It does seem somewhat hampered by the fact that a lot of the already existing jokes about pet ownership have already been taken by Secret Life Of Pets etc. It’s not doing anything new, but it’s not really expected to. Compared to the other Warner Bros animated fare, this is much better. Although let’s be honest, being better than Space Jam: A New Legacy is not exactly difficult.

There are some jokes which only work in this film, and really that’s how films like this should be. That’s the same for the story too. Bat-Hounds backstory is that he was abandoned by his family after they thought he bit their child. Brilliant writing as it ties into Batman’s “I work alone and don’t like getting close to people” nature, whilst also ties into the character, you know, being a dog.

Most of the casting is perfect. The Rock makes a great Superdog (if you stick around for the credits, you see him as Black Adam), and some of the human voices are almost too perfect: Keanu Reeves as Batman, for example. Kevin Hart as Bat-Hound doesn’t really work for me though. Kevin Hart is a ball of manic energy who survives on quick dialogue and humour. Which is the complete opposite of what a Batman-like character should be. It’s a shame as his chemistry with The Rock is obvious and sells many films, I just feel it might not be appropriate for this.

If you go into this as an adult, watching it and comparing it to other comic book movies, you won’t be pleased. It will be too simple, the plot too obvious, and the action scenes without tension. But if you go into this as a kids movie, just leave your mind at the door, and go in to have fun, you’ll like it. I’ve been in screenings for kids’ films before and this probably got the best reaction. That sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, but kids’ films are REALLY hard to do. An adult goes into a film with the social understanding “I am going to sit and watch this film”, a child has no such qualms. If a child isn’t entertained by what they’re seeing, they’ll let you and everybody else know. They have no shame in complaining, or running around the screen. They’re a highly critical audience, and the fact that this film scores well among that audience is a testament to how well made it is. There’s not QUITE enough there for adults though, which is a shame as films like The Lego Batman movie have shown how you can show love for the source material, entertain children, and throw in references for adults to get, and this doesn’t get close to doing that.

So in summary, is good, but could be great. If there’s a sequel, that could be better as the characters will already be established.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Hot damn this film looked good. There’s one moment where the characters are on a beach, making indentations in the sand, and you can almost FEEL the sand, it’s that beautifully animated. That doesn’t quite make up for the script though. It has its moments, but it feels incredibly generic. Unless this is the first film you’ve ever seen you will know exactly what’s going to happen before it does. This is not helped by the villain; who is incredibly unremarkable to the point where he’s forgettable. This is probably also due to how much of the time he spends off-screen, and when he’s not on-screen the shadow of him doesn’t really hang over the film. The main focus of the film isn’t the villain, it’s the female version of Toothless. It seems like the villain is just a method to get to THAT story, rather than the other way around. And the Toothless/Light Fury romance isn’t quite sweet enough to wash away the cynical feeling that it was geared towards toy sales (and yes, I know it was probably in the books first, but meh).

So all of that builds up to what is undoubtedly the weakest movie in the trilogy. The first one was REALLY good, the second one was also very good, and a worthy continuation of the series. This one? It just doesn’t have that inexplicable magic that the first two had. There’s something missing and that stops it being great, and means it’s just good. The ending is pretty great though. I hope it’s the ending anyway. I’d be incredibly disappointed if there’s a sequel to this as the ending to this provides perfect closure to the series as a whole. Maybe that’s my problem with it, it doesn’t seem like a series, just a sequence of films. There’s a few moments of connectivity between the films but they don’t really feel like they’re related. A lot of the characters are exactly the same as they have been throughout. If there was a sequel to this and someone watched that one, but missed out this one, there’s nothing they’d be surprised by. There’s no “wow, that character really changed in that movie I missed”.

I did like this movie, more than this review makes it seem. But put it this way; I don’t have the first one on DVD, and I do occasionally feel like my DVD collection is missing it. My collection will definitely not miss this. Also, the main characters looks way too much like Jake Gyllenhaal at the end.

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Also, I can’t help this but whenever I hear the title to this series I sing it to the tune of Paint Your Wagon

Isle Of Dogs (2018)

Have you ever seen a Wes Anderson film? Or even the poster for one? Did you hate it with every fibre of your being? If so this is not the film for you. The reasons you hate it: the colour schemes, the odd idiosyncratic nature of it all, they’re all prevalent here. But if you’re a fan of his work, then the reasons you love it: the colour schemes, the odd idiosyncratic nature of it all, they’re all prevalent here (thank you copy+paste). Personally, I adored it, and I chose that word specifically. I didn’t love it, it’s not the kind of film where I have a deep personal affection for it and will sing its praises to all and sundry. It’s not a film where I can spend hours talking about how it’s brilliant and everybody should love it. But it is a film I have warm feelings for, it’s the film equivalent of a cosy chair by a fireplace. You watch it and everything just feels, I dunno, right.

Part of that is down to the look of it. The stop-motion REALLY helps this. The style suits the story and is a great example of animation-story integration. If this was a heavily polished CGI film it would lose some of what makes it work. Even if it was animated like a 90’s Disney film it wouldn’t quite work. Characters are roughed up and damaged, this is great as it makes them seem real, like they’re actual things which have been damaged. So when someone is hurt in a fight, the damage stays with them throughout. The vocal work is great too, sometimes in animated films with all-star casts (and with Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray,Ken Watanabe, Scarlett Johansson etc, this is a definitely an all-star cast) it can be hard to be truly invested because every time a character speaks you go “hey, I know that voice”. You don’t really do that with this, probably because of how well suited the voices are to the characters, the characters sound exactly what you expect them to sound like when you look at the character designs.

The way the voices were handled was actually really well done too. The human characters mostly didn’t speak English, but Japanese, because the story is set in Japan (I know that seems obvious, but you’ll be amazed how many films make everybody speak English no matter what the location). The English come from either the dogs, an American, or a translation service, where the Japanese is still audible under the English (they essentially find an in-universe method of dubbing voices, and it’s genius).

So would I recommend seeing this? Definitely. Not if you’re a kid though (and if you are, why are you reading this?) Despite being marketed as a kids film I’m not sure how well this will be received by them. Also, it’s not quite as twee as the marketing and visual style might have you believe. It’s incredibly dark at times, one of the opening moments of the film features a dog dying of starvation, and it doesn’t lighten up too much in terms of story. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson, watch it, if not, this won’t change your mind.

The 5 Best Kids Films Of 2016

5 Goosebumps

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Are you surprised to see this here? Well to be honest, so am I. I had quite low expectations here, if expectations were a high jump, then this was set 2cms off the ground, and easily cleared it, not in a way to set a new world record, but one that still performs admirably. The great thing about this film is that it exists in a genre of one; it’s a kids horror film, and one that made back double it’s budget, so expect a few poor imitations in the next few years. I do feel guilty about putting this film here though, because it means I can’t put Finding Dory on this list. That’s not a knock against Finding Dory, it’s just an indicator of exactly how strong kids films have been this year, been a phenomenal time for them, and whilst Dory hit me harder emotionally, I think part of its target audience was adults, whereas Goosebumps was focused almost entirely on the kids. So whilst kids will grow up and watch Finding Dory when they’re older, I feel that while they’re younger, Goosebumps will have more appeal, and it’s odd that that could be seen as a bad thing in todays society, for kids films to be aimed at children. We almost expect them to have adult jokes in them now and consider films failures if they don’t, maybe because all film critics are adults so it can be hard for them to judge kids films on their own merits (probably not though, as they are professional).

4. The BFG

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As already mentioned, I LOVED this movie. It was magical, as I said earlier this year:

“some films are funny, some films are heart-breaking, very few films can be described as magical, this is one of them”

It also had one of my favourite performances of the year, and is a film I’ve already considered buying on blu ray, despite being so poor at the moment I’m panicking about money about two days after receiving any. I know this film wasn’t rated that highly by critics, I just don’t get why. Normally when I disagree with critics it’s on comedies, films which I can see are definitely cult films, I don’t normally disagree based on “f*ck you this film was fairy lights and sunshine on celluloid”.

3. Kubo And The Two Strings

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A film so strong and confident I just automatically assumed it was based on something. The fact that a new property can set up a world this full and real says a lot about the talent of both the writers and the directors. Surprisingly it’s the directors first film as a director, and I would not be surprised if he won an Academy Award for it (it’s not likely, but it would be very deserved). This was one of the few films this year I was actively following from the moment I saw the first trailer, it just looked so good, the music choice (While My  Guitar Gently Weeps) was inspired, and visually it was very different from everything else. This HAD to be fantastic for me to like it, anything else would be a bigger disappointment than the first time I tried Hershey’s Chocolate.

2. Zootropolis

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A film that reminded me of an important lesson; you can have too many jokes in a comedy. I know that sounds weird but even in a comedy the characters need to treat the situation seriously, otherwise the audience don’t feel the jeopardy. If the characters don’t fear the situation, then why will the audience? It’s hard to believe but in the closing stretch of Airplane there’s barely any jokes, it’s all plot. This film does that too, there’s not many jokes in the final third, the characters are genuinely scared and determined and focused on plot, so that makes the stakes seem high to the audience, so they’re more emotionally invested. Now if I was doing a “favourite animated films of the year” then this would probably be top, but as I’m judging this by it’s standard as a kids film, this sadly has to be second. It’s definitely a better film than the one I’ve chosen to go in top spot, but not a better kids film for one simple reason; there’s no magic. There’s no moment where you sit watching this film and are overcome by a feeling of wonder and joy, there’s no “ooooooooo” moment. If it did that then it would definitely be top, and in most years it would, but this year it’s just beaten to the top spot by another film.

1. Moana

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A film so good it almost seems like Pixar made it, if it wasn’t for the songs. But oddly enough it’s the songs that push this to the top spot. I hate songs in kids films usually as they’re just distracting, but here it served a real purpose, characters seemed to have their own musical motifs attached to them, and the songs are REALLY good. There’s a crab singing a David Bowie-esque song, The Rock singing a song about how awesome he is, and they’re still not the best songs in this film. If “How Far I’ll Go” doesn’t get nominated for awards I will genuinely be surprised, it’s touching, empowering, and even from a technical standpoint just a superb piece of music. On the downside there’s one or two jokes that take you out of the movie (there’s a twitter joke in here which is quite funny but completely unnatural), but then they’re followed with moments of brilliance (the psychedelic crab scene for instance features animation so colourful and beautiful, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long time). It also features what is without a doubt the best pee-joke of the year. So there’s that. Oh, it also features adorable/terrifying coconuts, which is always the sign of a great movie (be honest, how much better would every film be if you added anthropomorphic coconuts?)

 

So, that’s that. We’re starting work on our end of film lists as we speak so if there’s any films you think we’re likely to have not seen this year, let us know and we’ll try to watch them before the years out.

Five great animated Batman films (that are all probably better than Batman v Superman)

With Batman v Superman: Failure to dawn getting DPed with serrated dildos right now, let’s get are minds away from all that and look at the best of the dark knight’s littler seen films, the many great animated flicks that didn’t even make it to cinema (well except one).

Batman: Under Red HoodBatman_under_the_red_hood_poster
Released 2010 (six years ago! Fuck), it quickly gained a reputation for being one of the very best batman films ever, not just animated. Visually inspired with Nolan’s gritty down to earth style; Under Red Hood is the adaptation of Judd Winick’s own batman stories, Hush and Under the Hood, both of which he manages to improve upon, tightening the narrative and sharpening the resolution greatly. The strength of this caper comes from its intriguing mystery and lean into the detective elements of Batman (something NONE of the live-action films want to do!), on top of the very emotionally charged look at Batman’s character, as it retells and develops the death of Jason Todd’s Robin, and how that redefined Batman.

Batman_mask_of_the_phantasm_posterBatman: Mask of the Phantasm
The classic one. This one actually was released in theaters all the way back in 1998, but did badly because of how terrible the live action films were around then (Batman and Robin destroyed soooo much). But unlike those travesties, this film has just gained more and more praise over the years; mostly for its complex portrayal of Bruce Wayne and the development of how his personal life, far beyond the death of his parents, defined his Batman identity, for good and for worse. Spin that round another engaging mystery of a new villain out to settle old scores, and you have one of the seminal original Batman stories. Really if you’re a fan and you haven’t seen this yet, what’s wrong with you?

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Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
The only movie based on the sometimes underrated Batman Beyond series, that may not be as classic as the original animated show, but definitely had its own thing going. Anyway, this film made the smart choice of focusing on the original Batman just as much as the new one, Terry Mcginnis. So not only do we get a compelling look at the younger Batman as he fights to define what the cowl means to him, but we also get some just plain fucked-up development for the original cape crusader, as his legacy is put into even darker contexts with the reveal of his last bout with the Clown Prince of Crime.

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 Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox
Okay, it’s not a Batman film, but a Justice League one that focuses on The Flash. But it’s more than worth a watch just for the universe the story takes place in. After the Flash does some wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff he ends up in an alternate universe from the normal DC fare; a much darker one, where Bruce Wayne died instead of his parents, Clark Kent never landed in Smallville, and many more tweaks that ripple throughout this complex and bleak DCU. The central plot around Flash is emotionally compelling enough, but it’s really the messed up elseworld setting that takes the grizzled cake here.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Batman_The_Dark_Knight_Returns_(film)
Two full length movie adaptions of the seminal Frank Miller graphic novel, best viewed as one complete film….what else do I need to say? Is it as good as the comic, no, but it doesn’t miss anything out, and finds plenty of smart ways to blend the famous narration into it without becoming exposition heavy. So if you want the real take on the story, and not the patch work #inspired one BvS has given us, this is a must see for all Batman fans.

Further watching
Honestly, almost all of DC’s animated films. I’ve missed some classic ones here for the sake of diversity; and though clearly not all great, DC’s been doing strong work in the animation front for years, delivering time after time entertaining adaptations, that either lead into their vastly growing continuity like with the last five Batman films; or with some straight adaptations, like the highly anticipated Killing Joke due later this year.

further watching

So if the live action DCCU has ya down, depressed, and ready to go on a Superman sized massacre, just look to the straight to DVD basket for the real DC connected universe.