The Lego Batman Movie (2017): A Wonderful Satire and Celebration of Batman

    “The Lego Batman” movie is hilarious, a great satire and celebration of Batman and a great addition to the Batmanverse if you are any sort of fan of the character. This is a film that finally makes Batman fun again and brings in just how important the Bat Family is, which is something many of the live action films have forgotten. Before I get into story spoilers, I highly recommend this film. Much like the “Lego Movie,” it never stops being fun.

    The film was directed by Chris McKay, written by Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna, Seth Grahame-Smith, Jared Stern and John Wittington while being produced by Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

   The story involves Batman who after defeating Joker and his Rogues Gallery once again is alone but finds his life changed when Jim Gordon (Hector Elizondo) retires and his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) takes his place and wants to work with Batman (Will Arnett). Dick Grayson (Mchael Cera) is also accidentally adopted by Batman who must now deal with caring for others again as Joker sets a plan in motion to reach the enemies in the Phantom Zone, as he’s hurt that Batman doesn’t see him as his nemesis.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of Batman is fascinating and Lego’s take on it adds a lot of much needed humor as well as a recognition of the campy roots that have always been a part of Batman to some degree. We see a diverse array of Rogues, the Justice League of course the people of Gotham.

The Action – The action is fantastic, with my favorite parts being the opening fight where Batman faces off against his Rogues and the Phantom Zone enemies invading and pretty much destroying Gotham. The action is fluid and quick and remains focused even with so much going on.

The Joker – Zach Galifianakis was brilliant casting as the Joker. He brings so much snide and emotion to the role and I loved how he had a co-dependent relationship with Batman where all he wanted was to be the most hated and Batman’s nemesis aka have a special relationship. His Joker isn’t all bad either as at the end he helps save Gotham and in the Phantom Zone is freaked out by the mentality some of the villains have.

The Bat Family – The Bat Family is wonderful as see Alfred is Bruce’s surrogate father just as he becomes Dick Grayson’s (Michael Cera doing some great comedy) surrogate Dad. Batgirl (Rosario Dawson is once again fantastic) is the one who sees the big picture of them working together and that it is needed and Batman is the inventor whose inventions help save the day. It is Alfred calling Bruce to action that helps him grow (Fiennes does a wonderful job as the character), Robin’s usefulness, innocence and admiration and Batgirl’s accountability that help him complete his arc and finally grow out of the fear that was with him on the day his parent’s died.

Satire of Batman – Batman is trapped as a perpetual child who plays rock and roll is an ungrateful narcissist and this on display, from tantrums (a good satire of Bale and Affleck’s Batman at his most extreme), his strange villains from his early run (Condiment King, etc.) his strange rivalry with Superman (Batman v Superman, Dark Knight Returns) and how a lot of it comes from Batman’s childish need to one up and be extreme, and his isolation and just lonely that really is. The great thing is, a character arc comes out of it!

Batman’s Character Arc – In the end this satire is a celebration of the character because his anger and rage is mocked but it is also explored and it goes somewhere. Batman grows up and realizes he isn’t alone. Besides “Dark Knight Rises” I can’t think of a film that has really done this well (“Batman Returns” did it but not well).

 Okay: Batman’s Rogues – Batman’s rogues don’t much besides being minions of the Joker and function as one entity (which was a shame) some of the references are funny though, from Condiment King (actual rogue) to Bane having Tom Hardy’s Bane’s voice. As jokes and references they are fine but they don’t exist as characters, which would have raised this film higher.

The Phantom Zone Villains – Gremlins, The Eye of Sauron, King Kong and Lord Voldemort are some of the baddies in the Phantom Zone. They also largely exist as references too and as villains so powerful Batman’s Rogues and the Bat Family have to team up to defeat them.

The Cons: The Legoverse – Gotham is built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone has a talking Lego that sounds like a kid. I didn’t like either of these things. I get it is the Legoverse but these things took me out of the great Batman story that was taking place and was the worst part of the film and only real con.

   This was a film that was amazing as a Batman film, but brought down by the ties to the Legoverse. It was that aspect that took me out of the great Batman story that was being told. There is fantastic character arc that takes place with Batman finally growing up, from Gotham being built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone talking lego…I still highly recommend this film and consider it a favorite. I’m curious to see what the Lego Team comes up with next and hope that DC can take note of the fact that Batman can’t remain static. The great movies have him grow and change, it is when that is forgotten we are given the dramatic child who Will Arnett satires beautifully.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

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“A Series of Unfortunate Events” Season 1 – A Good Adaptation and What Should Have Been Done in the First Place

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     Netflix continues to create gold and we finally get the adaptation of this series we’ve been waiting for since “The End.” “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket was one of my favorite books growing up. I read it through Middle School and High School and truly enjoyed how it never pretended to have a happy ending while being a brilliant satire of society and how easily it is that people are selfish or allow their flaws to overcome their better natures or ignorance. I won’t give anymore away but you truly should read the series, it is a fast read and brilliant Gothic Fiction.

      How the show does it is it breaks the books in to two episodes so I’m going to review each Book and give the final score based on how each of the individual books stood all together when their scores are measured against one another.

      This series was created by Mark Hudis and Barry Sonnenfield. I’m surprised this came through given the flop that was the original film, but I’m grateful it did.

     The premise is the Baudelaire orphans Violet, Klaus and Sunny are given to Count Olaf, an evil actor who wants to steal their fortune and will go to any means to do so after their parents are killed in a horrible fire.

SPOILERS ahead

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Book 1 – The Bad Beginning

  The first 2 parts feel just like the book. The dark tone is fully captured, you have the ally in the Judge played by Joan Cusack and we are introduced to Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) and his troup and Patrick Warburton’s Lemony Snicket. The story is the darkest of the four this season except maybe “The Miserable Mill.” This is how these stories should be and solid acting on the part of the child stars who play the Baudelaires make this a solid episode as like in the book each of them have their chance to shine with Violet inventing, Klause’s knowledge saving her from having to marry Count Olaf. The only confusing bit are the bits with the Quigley Parents who early on seem to be implied to be the Baudelaire parents and nothing is done to show the audience this isn’t the case.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Solidly good. True to the book and doesn’t drag.

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Book 2 – The Reptile Room

   Aasif Mandvi is wonderful as Uncle Monty, and this is the first episode the really incorporate the Spy World in. The first story doesn’t but this one makes it relevant and gives us pieces for the Baudelaire’s to put together the mystery…be it from the connection to Peru, Monty’s spyglass and his connection to their parents. Olaf is threatening in this when he has his full squad and for the fact that he kills Uncle Monty, but sometimes the comedy is played a bit too hard and that keeps it from being a perfect episode as it makes the tone of the episode a little all over the place when Olaf and his troupe are in play. Olaf’s character of Stephano is pretty weak too and didn’t feel inhabited at all. The purposeful bad acting really came out in this character.

Final Score: 9 / 10

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Book 3 – The Wide Window

   “The Wide Window” is the story that drags the most, both in comparison to these four stories and in the show as well. Aunt Josephine is never given the chance to do much, though Alfre Woodward is a favorite actress (Mariah from “Luke Cage”) so it is a shame the adaptation didn’t do more with her character. She introduces the Baudelaire’s to code like in the books and like the books is overwhelmed by fear. Count Olaf’s Captain Sham is fantastic and the threat and charm of his character never goes away (unlike the zero of both that were in Stephano). He is the strongest part of this episode besides the Baudelaire’s taking their agency into their own hands and seeking to solve the riddles as well as running away from Poe at the end so they can learn what happened to their parents and how they connect to Lucky-Smells Lumber Mill.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Neil Patrick Harris carries this episode.

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Book 4 – The Miserable Mill

      Up to this point, Shirley is the most threatening character of Count Olaf’s, largely because he has help from Dr. Orwell (Catherine O’Hara) who controls the workers by hypnotizing them. This creates an aura of threat around the mill as all of them are prisoners and Count Olaf is friends with the one with all the power and Klaus being controlled by Orwell and Olaf. Sir is just greedy and only cares about money and lets the corruption occur as he profits from the control of his workers and the Baudelaires. Thankfully he is chased away by his workers when the hypnotic trance is broken, which gives his partner Charles to give the children the article that shows that their parents saved the Mill and the town from being entirely burned down. This was the darkest episode besides the first story and returns to that same charm. I really enjoyed Count Olaf’s Shirley as a character too, as well as Count Olaf’s jealousy of Orwell for succeeding in villainy while he is still only striving to fully succeed. This is where we see the Parents reveal of them not being the Baudelaire’s or in the same time and place showing that all our heroes have to count on, is one another. This is where the Baudelaire’s courage finally pays off and luckily the next season sets up them meeting allies at the boarding school that Mr. Poe leaves them at at the end.

Final Score: 9 / 10

     This is a series that should have never been done as a film. There is far too much material to cover and it is hard to slim it down while still honoring the source material. The original film did not and though I liked some things about it, it was not like this. This is a perfect adaptation and the only flaws it has are those that exist in the source material itself. Excited for Season 2 and am looking forward to “The Penultimate Peril” and “The End,” as this is one of those series that has one of the endings I was greatly impressed with growing up. Lemony Snicket giving us his thoughts as narrator is powerful too and Warburton gives us a powerful, comedic and somber performance through the narrative. The side characters were cast extremely well as are the three actors who play the orphans. The only thing that really brings the series down is the tone sometimes has extreme shifts and the source material really didn’t give us much to go off originally and this is true to that source material so is bound by those same limitations. We get tiny answers but most of it is mystery and grey….which has potential depending on how they handle the mystery and reveals. Suffice to say, I highly recommend this series to any lover of the books as I am or if you are just looking for another amazing Netflix series.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

“BoJack Horseman” Season 2 – A Masterpiece on the Paths of Self-Destruction and Change

BoJack Horseman Season 2 Poster

    “BoJack Horseman’ Season 2 is a masterpiece. The lack of focus during the first 1/3 of Season 1 isn’t there and all our characters have arcs and we get to know what motivates them more. The darkness in our characters never leaves either, but we get moments of hope that show the other side of being alive. It’s easily one of my favorite Seasons of a show and I am really excited to see what they do in Season 3. Raphael Bob-Waksberg really created an amazing show.

 The story picks up with BoJack starring in “Secretariat” but in turn finding the ugly underbelly of making a film as well as his own demons rising to the surface as he plays a character so much like himself. Elsewhere an old flame comes back into Princess Carolyn’s life and Diane has the chance to take her writing around the world to help people. Throughout it all old phantoms return as characters discover they can’t go back to the way things were.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation continues to be top notch, especially in the scene that they show as a continuous shot before Mr. Peanutbutter begins his new show.

The Soundtrack – Jesse Novak continues to make a great soundtrack that so greatly expresses the sadness and intensity our characters are going through. It manages to be apathetic but let us feel at the same time.

The Writing – The writing is fantastic! The depths of our characters are explored and we get to know more of why they are the way they are. BoJack and the main cast get the best development but there are even some amazing minor characters whose motivations and desires we come to know and understand.

The Characters – Outside of the themes and writing, the characters have always been the strongest part of this show and this season does away with a lot of the references to actually explore our characters and really show what it is they want out of their situations.

Beatrice Horseman – Beatrice’s mom says she’s sorry. It doesn’t change how abusive she is but her having some level of responsibility is powerful (she calls BoJack after his book comes out). It’s powerful and she expresses the brokenness of BoJack and the cast so well as we see  how broken she’s been her entire life as well. Wendie Malick did a fantastic job!

Rutabaga Rabbitowitz – Rutabaga is the highly ambitious character who doesn’t want to face consequences. He’s a smart and nice guy but he uses Princess Carolyn as a mistress and never divorces his wife even when he promised to do it when he and Carolyn would make their own Agency. He faces the consequences though as Carolyn sets down boundaries and leaves him leaving him to pick up the pieces of his own life.

J.D. Salinger – Salinger fakes his death in this universe and ends up being pulled into network television and it is awesome! He comes up with a reality show where celebrities are mocked and the depths of humanity can be explored which leads to BoJack and Mr. Peanutbutter fighting verbally and in turn revealing BoJack’s envy of him and his pride. Alan Arkin was perfectly cast for the voice actor.

Herb Kazzaz – Stanley Tucci gives a lot of life to this fascinating character who we see as the idealist man making a show, to screwed by the studio and BoJack and dying of cancer…but we see moments of joy with him, BoJack and Charlotte and when they were all young and hadn’t been eaten up by Hollywoo and changed or moved on from Hollywoo (Charlotte). His funeral is a major episode as it turns out his book he was writing sucked so his friends decide to keep it unpublished to save his legacy.

Wanda – Wanda is BoJack’s girlfriend for a while as she was in a coma for 30 years so she has no idea who he was so she treats him like she would anyone else. Things don’t go well though as she is committed and loves what she does while BoJack is listless and she is caring while he is always lashing out which eventually leads to her dumping him. She was a great character. She works in television and producing shows for the network and is an owl.

Kelsey Jannings – Kelsey is the director to “Secretariat” and she is awesome! She has no patience for BoJack but they actually do connect at times and we see she is a pretty great hardcore feminist and makes great art but when she tries to tell a great story with the film, the studio comes down on her and fires her. I hope we see her character again though, she helped BoJack face himself and to use his craft to grow.

Todd – Todd is Todd. He has more adventures in this, from making his own Disneyland and eventually leaving to join a Improv Group that is also a cult that he ends up being rescued from by BoJack as Todd is the one good part of BoJack’s life and the one time he did something good for someone else and it wasn’t for any ulterior reason.

Princess Carolyn – Princess Carolyn really gets her direction in this as we see her leave “Vincent Adultman” when his charade of being an adult stops working as he tries to be Vincent’s son and Vincent and after Rutabaga comes back into her life looks beyond her job where she’s under appreciated. Her arc is complete when she prevents Rutabaga from doing the same things and kicks him out of the new agency when his emotional blackmail tendencies become apparent to her and the fact that he isn’t going to leave his wife for her and never planned on doing so. Amy Sedaris is great.

Charlotte – Olivia Wilde plays BoJack’s old friend who he was interested in but moved on and now has a family and life in New Mexico. When he tries to get with her she lays down the boundaries clearly and after kicks him out when BoJack tries to get with her daughter. She is tough in this and gives us some great wisdom too as she makes BoJack aware of the tar within himself and that we always carry that with us. You don’t mess with Charlotte and if BoJack contacts her or her family again, he’s dead.

Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter’s arc is really finding his self-respect as we see in flashbacks that his past wife was abusive. We also see how supportive he is too and even though he and Diane clash at times (he does things for her and for himself in regards to parties and big events and always goes big) but that at the end of the day he just wants to be with her and that the shows and things he does are just ways to keep busy, since for him life is pointless and we all die but if we keep things interesting it isn’t so bad. He also confronts BoJack over his kissing of Diane last season and forgives BoJack for his envy and the kiss. Mr. Peanutbutter really grows as a character and is shown to be one of the most stand up guys in the series along with Princess Carolyn and Kelsey Jennings.

Diane – Diane goes abroad to help in a war torn nation and tell an eccentric billionaire’s story after she isn’t used at all in the film “Secretariat” and finds that she it isn’t for her as the billionaire’s ego is too large and the events are way too traumatic. This leads to her living with BoJack and lying to Mr. Peanutbutter about what she’s doing. It’s sad and we see what happens when your dream isn’t what you expect. BoJack helps her get her life together though as when he returns to New Mexico he begins cleaning up his life and tells her she should too. We see her in her darkest here as she is drunk and high all the time watching “Horsin’ Around.” It’s sad but she gets out of it and finds a job working on the media side for Princess Carolyn.

BoJack – BoJack like Diane discovers “Secretariat” is not what he expected, especially when the Studio drastically changes the story and fires Diane, leading to him leaving the set, being dumped by Wanda for being a dick and going to New Mexico to try and get together with Charlotte as being with her was the last time he was happy. It doesn’t work and he messes up big when he takes advantage of her daughter by not setting boundaries and we see just how broken BoJack is. In the end he returns to Hollywoo and rescues Todd as he discovers Todd was the one person he did something nice for for no other reason than to be nice. He also starts working on himself and begins running and we’re left with the possibility that things can get easier. He is also being asked to be in a New York play from someone he knows from his past.

Dreams are not Always What They Seem – For both Diane and BoJack the dreams they had where not what they expected. For Diane she found she wasn’t cut out to be abroad in war torn areas of the world and for BoJack he wanted to be in a story that was actually good, which wasn’t “Secretariat” after the studio changed it. He also discovers this again when his dream of being with Charlotte is shown to be a delusion that is only hurting himself and those around him. You can’t go back to what’s already happened.

You Can Never Go Back – This is a huge theme and really defines BoJack’s life in a big way as he tries to be friends with Herb after 20 years of no contact, he tries to get together with Charlotte and run away and finds that doesn’t work either. He is always trying to run backwards but it only leads to more pain because time didn’t stop, only he did.

Everyone Is Broken – Everyone on this show is broken, even Mr. Peanutbutter who has huge insecurities and has been in past abusive relationships (and can be super passive aggressive). The characters who are wise have made peace with this like Kesley or integrated it like Charlotte and Carolyn by the end. The rest are just trying to get by ignoring it or running from it.

Things Get Easier – The season ends with a runner telling a collapsed BoJack that it get’s easier. This is the bright moment in the series and shows that in all the brokenness and despair it can get easier to face and to deal.

    This is one of the best seasons of television and I’m really excited to see what Netflix does for Season 3. If you like dark and powerful shows, this is the show for you. The characters are complex and interesting and feel real. There weren’t really any cons this season since enough minor characters were major in regards to the plot and explored that they balanced out the joke characters. The themes are also powerful and timeless too and show even in things being difficult and hard and dreams not being all they are cracked up to be, that things get easier. Living gets easier, and sometimes that’s enough.

Final Score: 10 / 10

“BoJack Horseman” Season 1 – A Nihilistic Comedy With Depth

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     It took a while but I finally got through Season 1 of “BoJack Horseman.” I got to say I’m impressed. It is heavy, depressing and funny and ends up having a great payoff. I look forward to seeing where the future seasons go. This is a show that didn’t seem to know where it was going at first, it just seemed like a day in the life like “Horsing Around” (the sitcom BoJack stars in) but it gave it’s characters arcs which turned it into a very strong and funny show.

     The show was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and airs on Netflix.

     The story involves the once famous sitcom actor BoJack Horseman from “Horsin’ Around” trying to recapture the glory days and be loved by people again which leads to him taking on a ghost writer named Diane Nguyen. From here things unfold as BoJack’s own demons come back to ruin whatever he touches.

The Pros: The World – The World is full of humans and humanoid animals who have traits similar to the animal they are drawn from. Princess Carolyn is a cat and has a scratchy post, etc, It’s really cool and fits the offness of the world the story takes place in.

The Animation – The animation is great and flows really well. When BoJack does a drug trip near the end of the season it is really shown too as they get super creative with some of the images he sees and the animation (such as erasing the lines around him). It’s very well done.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack fits the nihilistic feel of the world and the world of Hollywood it draws from. Patrick Carney did a fantastic job. The opening theme is great too for capturing the loneliness of the characters.

The Characters – The main characters are the strongest part and really help capture themes of purpose and loneliness. There are a few side joke characters who I enjoyed too and listed as pros just because they were so funny.

Neal McBeal the Navy Seal – This characters is funny as he gets into a fight on television when BoJack takes his muffins that he had called. He gets justice though and pulls BoJack onto Mr. Peanutbutter’s reality show to get an apology, though it still gets intense as BoJack tries to get him to support his thoughts in regards to war. BoJack and Neal’s fight on television is one of the show’s funniest moments.

Pinky Penguin – Patton Oswalt plays this nervous Penguin who just wants to see his children. He’s a great character as he is extremely anxious and desperate but manages to pull it all off. He is one of the few completely sympathetic characters in the show.

Princess Carolyn – Amy Sedaris is hilarious is Princess Carolyn…BoJack’s agent who is all about her work and has an on and off relationship with him. She’s ruthless and great and at the end of the day truly cares about BoJack. Her arc is becoming top of her game and moving on from BoJack as we see her start dating again after Diane’s book is successful and her and BoJack begin making the “Secretariat” movie.

Todd Chavez – Aaron Paul is great as BoJack’s live-in roommate who is always doing drugs and partying. He has a great mind though and we see that BoJack keeps him down which leads to him leaving BoJack which leads to a somewhat establishing of boundaries when they become friends again. He’s the character who is successful when he tries.

Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter is overly positive and can be a bit of a dick like BoJack though he super loyal if he likes you. He is a fun character, though he doesn’t really have an arc beyond marrying Diane after getting over his insecurities of failing in his marriage. I like the character and think is a great contrast to both Diane and BoJack. Paul F. Thompkins does a good job.

Diane Nguyen – Diane is my favorite character on the show. She’s the ghost writer who writers BoJack’s memoir and helps him see all the dark things about himself he denies. She is also a bit of an outcast and comes from a pretty loud and abusive family. Her arc is finishing the book, getting over her fears of failure and commitment and marrying Mr. Peanutbutter and establishing boundaries and friendship again with BoJack after he kisses her. I can’t wait to see where her arc goes next season.

BoJack – BoJack came from an abusive family so became a celebrity because he just wanted to be loved. He’s narcissistic, egotistical and cruel but can also be kind and vulnerable. We see all of this over the course of the season and his arc is being honest with himself and accepting how alone he feels. He gets his dream role though of playing Secretariat, who was his idol as a kid who killed himself when he cheated at racing. Curious where BoJack’s arc is going to go as we see him admit to his mistakes and actually grow a little.

Loneliness – Loneliness is a major theme. All our characters are and deal with it in different ways. Diane with Mr. Peanutbutter, Carolyn with work, BoJack with women, drinks and acting and Todd with drugs. It’s a powerful theme that the show executes really well.

Good People? – One of the main questions of the show is the question of good people existing. The shows answer to that is no as egos get in the way and people are only their base selves. I agree to some degree but also think the show contradicts itself when we get the times of depth from characters like Diane and BoJack who are more than their traumatic childhood and hurt.

Okay: Side Characters – There are a few celebrity side character but I didn’t really see them as characters. They felt like guest appearances rather than characters within the narrative. From Colbert as a Frog and Naomi Watts as herself…they existed for the sake of the plot and that was it.

Sarah Lynn – She the former child star from “Horsin’ Around” gone crazy with drugs and that is the extent of her character. She brings out the worst of BoJack’s tendencies and her character never really goes anywhere. She works within the world at least.

The Cons: Early Show Meandering – Early on the show doesn’t feel like it has focus. It establishes are characters are lonely and self destructive but we don’t really get anything beyond that. The story really doesn’t pick up until Diane and BoJack start developing their relationship and that is where the solid arcs begin.

  This was a great show, even though it didn’t really find it’s footing till about a third of the way through. By that point though I was in and wanted to see what happened to the characters and how their relationships would unfold. The characters and themes are really what make this show great and in my Top 3 American Animated Shows currently though I’d still put “Gravity Falls” ahead of it. This shows gets my recommendation and I can’t wait to watch the next season.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10