Tag Archives: film

February Bonus Review: D.E.B.S.

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D.E.B.S. is an American film from 2004, although it’s based off of a shorter film that aired at their Sundance festival in 2003. It was written and directed by Angela Robinson. It’s basically a romantic comedy spy film. I don’t normally care for American romantic comedies but this one came recommended by someone who also does not generally care for those films. So, let’s have a look.

Story: 

The D.E.B.S. are a top secret spy organisation that recruits suitable operatives based off of their abilities as measured by a hidden portion of the SAT. Our main group is made up of Max- the driven leader, Amy- the trainee who got a perfect score on the hidden test, Janet- who just really wants to graduate & Dominique- she’s haughty and French. That’s a combination we’ve never seen before. These four are close to graduating when they get a mission. Lucy Diamond, notorious criminal mastermind, is going to be meeting with a Russian assassin and they’re supposed to go and find out what’s happening. So, they find themselves eavesdropping on the meeting and, eventually, in pursuit of Lucy. Amy gets separated from the others and meets her. After a pretty ridiculous introduction filled with romantic tension, Lucy escapes, making Amy the only agent who’s ever survived an encounter with her.

Let’s start with what I didn’t like about the narrative. Which is, surprisingly, sparse. The only thing I really didn’t care that much for is the way Lucy initially pursues Amy. Which, to be fair, is kind of a necessary evil  since they are on opposite sides and abducting her to take her out is probably the least gross thing that Robinson could’ve used to kick start a healthier relationship for the two of them without doing something super convoluted or just nonsensical. Seriously though, don’t take courting lessons from Act 1 Lucy.

Now, for the positives. First of all, this film is really funny. Its comedic elements and parodies of the spy genre are very well done. The stakeout scene is absolutely hilarious. The high-tech gizmos that are flashy but not all that effective at what they’re designed for work really well for parody purposes. They even take a more subdued approach and make them less effective than a simpler, lower tech solution without making them over the top terrible. Which I can appreciate. Once it gets going Amy & Lucy’s relationship very quickly becomes adorable. Overall, the film is just very lively, fun and enjoyable.

Characters: 

I was actually a bit surprised by how strong some of the characters are. Yeah, a lot of the characters in this film are the kind of shallow but enjoyable comedic characters you get in a lot of comedies. But then you’ve got the characters who get layers as revealed by their relationship dynamics. Lucy & Amy have a good one going. Amy with her friends, Janet & Max. Lucy with her friend/ head minion, Scuds. Those are all relationship dynamics that serve to develop the characters involved and there are some really strong bits of dialogue and unexpected character traits emerging from those interactions.

Cinematography, Visuals & Effects

This film is designed to look a lot like a 1980s  spy film. The action scenes resemble what you’d see in one  of those. The CG is more advanced, but still looks dated. Honestly, the style works for what the film’s doing and it does contribute to its charm.

Acting & Music

The acting is really good. Jordana Brewster & Sara Foster really sell the chemistry betwixt their characters. There are also some good performances from Michael Clarke Duncan, Holland Taylor, Jimmi Simpson, Jill Ritchie & Meagan Good. The soundtrack has some really good songs & Steven M. Stern’s score contributes to that.

Final Thoughts:

I’ll be honest, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. The romance starts out a bit suspect, but quickly becomes really good. The acting is well done. The comedic elements largely work well, resulting in some very funny moments. It’s a film that’s a lot of fun to watch. If you want a light-hearted parody of spy films with a kind of cutesy lesbian romance at its core, this is the film for you/ For myself, I give it a very solid 8/10.

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June Bonus Review: Muppet Fairy Tales

chances are you’re at least passingly familiar with The Muppets,  a franchise created by Jim Henson and based around a lovable cast of quirky puppets. The Muppet show started way back in the mid-70s and was a rousing success. It spawned a lot of films, specials, sequels and more. Today, I’m going to be looking at a direct to video instalment, Muppet Fairy Tales. It was released in ’94, a couple years before Muppet Treasure Island. 

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Story:

We  open with Gonzo the whatever and Rizzo the rat introducing the idea for the film. A series of fairy tale adaptations based on the Three Little Pigs, King Midas, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Rumpelstiltskin, The Emperor’s New Clothes & The Elves and the Shoemaker. All told in the iconic Muppet style.

That might be the biggest flaw with the work. We have six different fairy tales, and a variety of transition shenanigans, in around an hour and a quarter. As a result, it doesn’t feel like they take full advantage of any of the scenarios.

That being said, what they do have is pretty solidly done. The meta humour is nicely executed and there are a lot of really funny scenes. The way they learn Rumpelstiltskin’s name, Ms. Piggy against the big bad wolf & Rizzo tricking Emperor Fozzie are all great moments that lead to an enjoyable viewing experience.

Characters:

I can’t really claim they include all your favourite muppets in this. The main ones we see are Gonzo, Rizzo, Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie & Robin. There are several noticeably absences like Rowlf, Sam & Electric Mayhem. I’d include Tim Curry but he wouldn’t become an honorary muppet for a couple years. Honestly, I  think they made the right call. They don’t need every single character to show up just for the sake of having them and the cast they have works well for what they’re doing.

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Cinematography & Visuals:

There are quite a few well done aspects to the visuals. The muppets themselves are well designed. I like the set designs too. They’re deliberately designed to look like something you’d see in a community theatre. The biggest issue with the visuals is the choreography  for the musical numbers. Yes, every fairy tale has a song attached to it and most of them are pretty lazy with the choreography. The first one we get has Miss Piggy and the other little pigs kind of wandering in circles while occasionally stepping forward to sing to the camera. The Rumpelstiltskin one pretty much involves the characters swaying from side to side. Yeah, I get that they’re working with puppets here but they could do something more visually interesting.

Acting & Music:

All in all, the acting is well done. Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire and Frank Oz are all in their traditional roles, this was after Whitmire took over as Kermit. There is an awkward moment where Goelz takes over as Rizzo for a brief scene but it’s only for a couple lines and not a big issue. That being said, the musical numbers in this are weak. There have been a lot of excellent Muppet songs over the years. The Rainbow Connection, Saying Goodbye, Moving Right Along, I’m Going to Go Back There Someday, Together Again and many others. In this one, the songs are really repetitive and serve to hammer in the moral or a plot point. The only song I kind of liked was the parody one used in the last fairy tale. Aside from that, it’s just very lacklustre.

Final Thoughts:

There are certainly things that could have been done better and there are better pieces of Muppets media out there. That being said, it’s not a bad little piece by any means. It has plenty of charm, some strong funny moments and it’s ultimately fun. If you’re a fan of the Muppets, consider giving it a look. For myself, I give it a solid 7/10.

March Bonus Review: Justice League- Crisis On Two Earths

Crisis on Two Earths is an animated film from 2010. It was during the same period that a lot of DC animated films came out. So, how does this one in particular hold up?

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Story:

We open in a parallel world, just in case the title didn’t make it obvious that this film would be dealing with a parallel world. In this world, Lex Luthor is a hero and he’s working with another hero called the Jester. Obvious Joker analogue is obvious. The two of them are taking something from their world’s most powerful villains, The Crime Syndicate. Luthor manages to escape to the main DCU dimension and enlists the help of the Justice League to save his world. 

There are several major issues with this narrative. First off, the whole spiel of heroes fighting evil versions of themselves has been done in comics and comic-based media, a lot. And in terms of that narrative type, Crisis on Two Earths is pretty weak. The heroes end up in the predictable encounter where they all fight their own opposites and then it abruptly ends due to reasons. we also have a really contrived romantic sub-plot with J’onn J’onzz and Elseworld Rose Wilson. It contributes nothing and makes no sense. There’s also the ending. Throughout the story we see President Deathstroke and the authorities turn a blind eye to the Syndicate because “they’re too strong. We can’t stand up to them.” but, for all that, they manage to handle the syndicate with sickening ease when they actually try. His daughter may very well be completely right when she thinks of him as a coward since he apparently decided to kiss their backsides without a fight. 

On the positive side, there are some nice little action sequences. I also do like the way that Supes figures out that Luthor is from another dimension. I also do like that Bats brings up the whole debate  of whether or not they should be messing about trying to help this other Earth when theirs has plenty of its own problems. It’s something that really should have gotten more screen time than it does. Possibly in lieu of a pointless romantic sub-plot  because that would have made the film more compelling. 

Characters:

The characters are a bit mixed. Most of the major characters are recognisable as themselves and have a sense of personality. you also get a lot of side characters who show up for a couple minutes and have very little personality on display. Then there are the antagonists. The Crime Syndicate largely comes across as just evil for the evils. Maybe the film’s writers just wanted to make homage to the Silver Age and that’s why the villains have that level of complexity.

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Art:

The art is mostly pretty good. The character designs are nicely done. I do like that the Elseworld characters have very different looks than our heroes. A lot of the action sequences are also quite good. But then we get into those that aren’t so much. Like Bats fighting in the world’s shittiest robotic suit while trying to look like a badass. (It doesn’t work.)

Sound:

The vocal cast in this is heavily mixed. There are some actors who do pretty decently. Vanessa Marshall, Mark Harmon, Jonathan Adams & Chris Noth all do well enough. Then you’ve got a bunch of actors who are passable and some who are absolute rubbish. William Baldwin has to be the second worst sounding Batman I’ve ever heard. James Woods just sounds completely apathetic the whole time. Like he couldn’t be bothered to actually act. James Patrick Stuart’s fake accent for Johnny Quick is pretty bad too. The music is fine. 

Final Thoughts:

All in all, Crisis on Two Earths is pretty weak. The narrative is one we’ve seen before and better executed, a lot. The villains are weak. the performances vary from pretty decent to outright bad. If you’re just looking for some nice action with DC’s stable of heroes, you might enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s not bad, but it is below average. My final rating is a 4/10. 

December Bonus Reviews: Spaceballs

Spaceballs is a Mel Brooks film from 1987.That’s right, the mind behind the Producers, Young Frankenstein, History of the World part 1 & Blazing Saddles among others. So, how does this one compare to his other works?

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Story:

The titular Spaceballs have a problem. Their planet, Spaceball, is running out of air. They would plant vegetation, but that would be silly. As such, their obvious course of action is to ransack another planet and steal its air. Their choice is planet Druidia, a world protecting itself with an air shield. They’d choose a different target without an air shield, but that would  be silly. Fortunately for their schemes, Princess Vespa of Druidia runs off, not wanting to marry the chronically sleepy  Prince Valium. They take advantage of the situation to try and capture her but her father, Roland, contacts the mercenary Lone Starr to go rescue her.

This is a film that parodies a lot of science fiction. Most notably Star Wars, but it also pokes fun at Aliens, Planet of the Apes & Star Trek. It’s also a film that does it very well. There aren’t any jokes in the film that fall flat or otherwise don’t work. It’s bloody hilarious from the start to the end. Another bit of praise I can offer it is that a lot of the jokes work even if you’re only passingly familiar with what’s being parodied and haven’t watched it. Which isn’t an easy feat.

Characters:

The cast isn’t incredibly deep but they work really well. They play off of one another strongly. Their interactions are incredibly funny. there’s some skilful contrast used for them. And they’re just a fun, endearing group.

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Cinematography, Visuals & Effects:

This film has a lot of strong visual gags. The random product placements in particular, all of which advertise Spaceballs. The film is also shot really strongly with a lot of comedic moments where the comedy is greatly enhanced by the cinematography. The special effects are dated by today’s standards, but I wouldn’t say they’ve aged badly.

Acting & Music:

The performances  in this are fantastic. Mel Brooks pulls double duty as the Spaceball President, Skroob and as the wise Yogurt. Bill Pullman, the late John Candy, Daphne Zuniga & the late Joan Rivers play our main heroes and they are really amazing & funny in the roles. Our two main antagonists, Dark Helmet & Colonel Sandurz are portrayed by Rick Moranis and George Wyner, both of whom are fantastic. The music was composed by John Morris, the same gent who did the soundtracks for most of Mel Brooks’ films. And the music is really damn good. It’s evocative of the sci-fi films that are being parodied while also being its own, unique thing.

Final Thoughts:

Spaceballs is an incredibly funny comedy. With a superb sense of humour, endearing characters & a strong acting cast. If you’re a fan of science fiction and you like to enjoy a good laugh, I can highly recommend it. My final rating is going to stand at a 9.5/10.

Next week I’ll continue December’s extra reviews with Arrow, series 1. Until  then, have a safe and pleasant holiday season whether you celebrate Hearth’s Warming, Hogswatch, the Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Christmas, or any other holiday.