Monday, May 30, 2016

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008) direct to video animated movie

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

Focusing on the avengers' kids has turned a potentially relevant and deep story into juvenile Saturday morning cartoon fare.

The Good: simple story, some night time scenes of intricate artwork, conveys relevant themes of growing up, excellent voice work

The Bad: Sub-standard animation, generally simplistic art, cliche ridden plot, juvenile writing, 

3D Readiness: None


The Avengers, Earth's Mightiest Heroes, have been defeated by the machine menace known as Ultron. Presumably the last survivor of that final terrible battle, Iron Man/Tony Stark takes it upon himself to hide the baby children of the Avengers in secret so that Ultron would never find them. He raises them hidden in a underground artificial paradise, constantly spinning them tales about the parents they never knew. Fast forward 13 years later and the children have grown up into fine youngsters, training their individual gifts but longing to find their place in the world. Following a surprise visitation by the Vision and an unfortunate accident, Ultron discovers the location of the Avenger's children and launches an all out attack. Separated from their mentor Iron Man, and on the run, these "Next Avengers" must live up to their family heritage while dealing with their individual inner turmoil and teenage angst.

First off, the story is very intriguing and engaging. It is a whole new world and whole new rules as our Next Avengers step out of their artificial perfect world and into the dystopia that our earth has become. There is a good amount of mystery and tension in the first act as the tragic past is slowly unveiled through stories and flashbacks. But the second part taking place in Ultron City falls a little bit into futuristic cartoon clichés. Machines have dominated the future, an underground resistance movement is made up of a rag tag team of misfits who look culled from every single dystopian genre anime there ever was. The story isn't as intense as the previous marvel animated movies, nor as character focused, and the writing does tend to tip a bit into the juvenile side of things. Although the stakes are high with Ultron having taken over the world, we never get a sense of danger from this adversary. The story feels safe; safe in the fact that it is predictable that good would eventually triumph, safe in the fact that any character "killed" would be back by the end of the movie. 
The Characters are a little less easy to get into than the story. The children are typical kid hero character stereotypes. The irritating youngest brat(Pym), the hot headed slacker turned leader(James), the feisty girl with daddy issues(Toruun), the token African American for political correctness(Azari) and the cold aloof flirty one(Barton). Aside from the clichés their individual story arcs play out very believably. The inner turmoil faced by the heroes alludes to many common problems face by average teenagers nowadays, such as living up to one's parents' expectations and finding a sense of self-identity. These are very heart warming themes that can appeal to young and old alike. Some of the dialogue may be a little too "saturday morning cartoon" for the older teenagers like myself but these superficial shortcomings can be forgiven thanks to good voice acting. It is difficult to believe that they got actual kids to voice the Avengers' children but there you have it: child actors conveying nuance and subtlety like any professional voice actor. These kids may go far in life.

It is in the animation department where this film truly suffers. The animation is very inconsistent here. The art varies from an intricate level of detail  to flat and cheap looking crap with no other detail other than the basic outlines and features. The daytime shots are the worst offender with quality coming across very poorly, not even an ounce of effort in the shading. But some of the night time shots are breathtaking with amazing lighting effects and full use of shadows.

A number of animation short cuts are jarringly visible and the fluidity of the animation usually varies indirectly to the art detail. This leads to a lot of the action lacking the dynamic energy that one would expect from such animated superhero showdowns. Add in the rather generic sounding soundtrack and you get some very underwhelming action. There is one sequence near the end of the movie where quality takes a bit of a jump but it ends up being too little too late. The overall animation of the movie has a low budget look; more fitting for a TV series than a movie. The character designs had a strong American anime feel to them. Not as exaggerated as Teen Titans but more on par with Ben 10.

On a whole, Next Avengers was an enjoyable movie with themes that are easy to relate to and can be watched by an audience of any age above 7. It has themes relevant to those growing up in the shadow of their parents and peers but all this is buried under writing that is more juvenile that i had hoped for. The cliches, simplistic artwork and occasional corny humour do not do NEXT AVENGERS any justice. If it were not for all that and the sub standard animation, I would have given this a higher rating.

********Review End*******

Entertainment: B+
Art: C-
Animation: C
Story: B
Voice Acting (English): B+ 
Characters: C+
Music: C
Replay value: A-
"Brains": B

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ant-Man (2015) movie review

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

A novel concept with potentially grand ideas is belittled into bite sized simplicity, contorted into child friendly comedy and shrunk down to superficial super heroics with no sense of peril or tension.

The Good: Peyton Reed's cool visual style, Paul Rudd's portrayal of the lead character, awesome special effects, refreshingly stylish soundtrack

The Bad: wasted ideas that could have tapped its novel concept, cliche story of zero to hero, weak action, badly placed jokes, ill timed humour, some low quality special effects

3D Readiness: None

At 11 movies into its interconnected series of comic book live action movies, marvel studios has cemented its fool proof formula since AVENGERS: lots of laughs, simplistic stories, superficial thrills, and more laughs. The deeper themes of earlier marvel movies be damned. Comedy sells and they have cranked that up for ANT MAN. Number 11 in the marvel comics series of movie adaptations. From the massive scope of countrywide destruction in AGE OF ULTRON, marvel tones it down and goes small. Way small. Small in scope, tone, depth and small in the way of fresh ideas.
Incorporating the most groan inducing aspects of the MCU formula, ant man is essentially the shrinking blue collar Iron Man. We have seen this story countless times. The comedic lovable loser down on his luck, trying his darnedest to be a good man and Father to his kid, he gets a godsend opportunity to turn his life around and sticks it to some big shot corporate dude. Meet Scott Lang, ex-master thief looking to turn away from a life of crime. His caricature of a friend tempts him for one more burglary to rob an inventor but Scott ends up discovering a secret invention: an incredible suit belonging to bitter inventor Hank Pym that is able to shrink its user to the size of an Ant. Where Scott sees a horrible mistake, The elderly Hank sees opportunity to outsmart a former protege Darren cross who had ousted Pym from his own company and created the weaponised "yellow jacket" mech suit incorporating pym's shrinking tech. Now Scott lang is given his second chance to be a hero. He breaks out of captivity using his shrinking suit, teams with hank and his Daughter Hope to master its capabilities, and attempts to take down the power hungry Cross who is close to perfecting the yellow jacket weapon.

Remember what I said about small stakes and scope? Ant Man is not about some international incident or some earth shattering invasion. It is a personal and very focused story and that's fine actually. But what causes a terrible dissonance is the way the humour is handled. True to such movies, we have characters in constant life or death situations but they seem to be treating their plight like a playground outing or a pillow fight. Jokes, snarky banter and badly timed comedy abounds without any sense of peril or desperation making it difficult to take the plot seriously.

Or perhaps one isn't supposed to take it seriously? After all, the plot in itself is a mash up of Honey I Shrunk the Kids with some Adam Sandler style comedy. I mean there is this one part where Scott enlarges a pre-shrunken tank and escapes from his pursuers. A tank! But even looking at it from an action comedy perspective still presents some problems. It's not Witty enough to pass as a comedy, Nor thrilling enough as an action movie.

To his credit, director Peyton Reed does some amazing work with the shrinking scenes and the fight scenes involving our pint sized protagonist are definitely a work of special effects genius. Paul Rudd successfully captures the plight of poor Scott lang with a very earnest performance, though at times overdoing the jokes a bit. The score by Christophe Beck is also of particular note, eschewing the increasingly cliched action Beats of past marvel scores for something closer to a 1960s spy thriller.

In the greater scheme of things, ANT MAN presents many intriguing concepts,l. Big ideas that were hampered by small minded execution and equally small minded reliance on cheap comedy belittling what could have been intelligent storytelling with cliche after cliche. A sprightly little movie that would be right at home as a family comedy if you took out the shrinking.
************Review End**********

Entertainment: A
Story: C-
Acting: A-
Characters: B-
Music: B+
Replay value: B-
"Brains": C-