Tagged: movie

Review: Scooby Doo! WrestleMania Mystery

scoobymania-300x379-4140098Vince McMahon is a certified marketing genius. Always keen to find a new way to reach a new audience, he tied pro wrestling to rock and roll, and in doing so, made it a part of popular culture to a level it hadn’t been since the early days of television.  His knack for cross-promotion has struck gold again, with a crossover between the WWE Superstars and the animated adventures of the Great Dane Detective and the Mystery Inc gang in their newest direct to video movie, [[[Scooby Doo WrestleMania Mystery]]], out just in time to help promote WrestleMania XXX, coming to your screens this Sunday, April 6.

The voices and likenesses of the current crop of WWE Superstars like John Cena, Triple H, Divas Champion AJ Lee and Santino Marella team up with Scooby and the gang in a fun throwback to the old days of The New Scooby Doo Movies, which featured guest star crossovers galore. The voice cast of Mystery Inc are the team that have been handling the job for the TV shows as well as the Direct to Video features for some time now.  Frank Welker still provides the voice of Stalwart Freddy Jones, and has also capably taken over the voice of the eponymous hound.  Mindy Cohn, late of The Facts of Life is Velma Dinkley, and voice talent extraordinaire Grey Delisle Griffin is Daphne BlakeNorville “Shaggy” Rogers is now voiced by Matthew Lillard, who proved to us in the live-action films that it is actually possible to genetically breed actors to play specific parts.

The story is set in “WWE City” a combination resort complex, production center and training camp for the superstars.  Scooby and the gang win a trip to the resort after getting a perfect score in the new WWE video game, just in time for Wrestlemania, the unveiling of the priceless new WWE championship belt, and the recent attacks by a mysterious monster, the Ghost Bear.  Seems almost like they could be, y’know, connected, huh?  The Bear is allegedly the spectral remains of a wrestling bear in a touring show, undefeated until he fell at the hands of the great-grandfather of luchador and current WWE Superstar Sin Cara. With the help of long time wrestling trainer Cookie (Chares S. Dutton) and his nephew Ruben, the gang investigates the origins of the bear attacks, which takes on an extra level of required hurry-up when Scooby is accused of stealing the championship belt. They must find the culprit (and the bear) before, according to WWE City law, Scooby and Shaggy will be forced to prove their innocence on the field of battle, facing Kane in the opening match at WrestleMania.

The film is loads of fun, with a suitably wacky storyline, mixed with well done action and chase scenes. There’s enough twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing until the mask is whipped off the baddie. The superstars’ charisma carry over to the animated form, and it’s clear everyone had a good time making the movie.  Also included on the disc is a behind the scenes documentary featuring the wrestlers’ voice recording sessions and an episode of underappreciated classic of the Doo continuity A Pup Named Scooby Doo, a show The Wife and I loved so much, we named our child after one of its characters, namely Shaggy’s baby sister.  (Thank goodness we had a girl, or we’d have had to name her “Red” Hoerring.)

Scooby Doo WrestleMania Mystery is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Box Office Democracy: “Noah”

I suppose you can’t make a movie about a global flood and a man building an ark to store all of the animals of the world without people drawing the comparison to the story of Noah from the bible.  That’s a shame though because there’s an interesting movie in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah that might never get it’s due because it is so divorced from the story we’ve all heard a million times that I fear it’ll never get a chance.  This is a story everyone knows and changing the answer to questions like “Why did God flood the earth?” or “How many people were on the ark?” or even “How many rock monsters are in this story?”

This is a dark unpleasant movie Aronofsky has made.  This sentence could also be run in a review of [[[Black Swan]]], [[[Requiem for a Dream]]], or really any of his other movies with the possible exception of [[[The Wrestler]]], which I only found unpleasant.  This is unpleasant on a whole other scale though.  This movie features the death, by drowning, of the overwhelming majority of the population of the planet and it isn’t even the most messed up thing that happens in the film.  Most disturbing scene has to go to the one where Noah is about to stab his newborn twin granddaughters to death because he’s convinced that God wants the human race to die out with his children.  What’s that you say?  In the bible all three of Noah’s kids bring their wives with them and there’s no question the human race will continue?  I don’t know what to tell you.  Your bible probably doesn’t have rock monsters in it either.

Aronofsky is a great director and while this isn’t a great film his talent comes through in the visuals.  The spiritual side of things is heavily stylized and colorful while the earth is all muted grays.  It creates solid contrast and will almost get you to accept that man has ruined the earth provided to him.  There’s also a fantastic sequence where Noah tells his children the biblical story of seven-day creation while we’re shown a much more scientific creation montage including evolution.  It’s visually stunning but probably not worth the shit storm I’m sure is forthcoming from the more devout religious groups.

In the movie they identify the rock monsters as members of a group of angels called The Watchers and while doing a bit of research for this review I came across a fun fact.  There are no examples of fallen Watchers in the actual bible but in the Book of Enoch, a non-canonical Jewish text, does describe a group of Watchers who fell including some that share names with characters in the movie Noah.  This group of Watchers was kicked out of heaven because they couldn’t control their urges and started having sex with human women leading to a race of monster giants.  None of this is in this movie and I probably would have rather seen that.

Marc Alan Fishman: Turtles the Size of Buicks!

No doubt you’ve watched it. If you’re of my generation? You’ve likely re-watched it several times over. And after each subsequent viewing… you ask yourself: Is Michael Bay destroying my childhood one license at a time? In response, I think we’ve all come to relatively the same conclusion– maybe a little bit. But the trailer in question reveals to us a Michael Bay at his Bay-ie-est.


Let’s start with the good. There’s plenty of hints that the film makers know the lore from which they are drawing. From April O’Boobs’ yellow jacket, the TCRI building, to the relatively recognizable Shredder armor… it’s clear that someone in the production watched a few cartoons in their pre-production meeting. (more…)

Box Office Democracy: Muppets Most Wanted

muppets most wanted photoI feel bad for The Muppets in the same way I feel bad for aging rock bands.  They used to be cutting edge but now they’re content to be a nostalgia act making money by playing the hits.  I don’t begrudge them the work and frankly I might be a little jealous of how much money they’re making doing the same old thing but I wish they doing new and exciting things rather than just jamming out on “Sympathy for the Devil” one more time.  Muppets Most Wanted is a fun movie but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

The plot of Muppets Most Wanted centers around an international jewel thief frog who is identical to Kermit with the exception of a mole on his lip.  Using his underling Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), Constantine switches place with Kermit, taking over running the Muppet world tour while Kermit rots away in a Siberian Gulag.  The movie then breaks in to three threads with Gervais, Constantine, and the duped Muppets going on a world tour that corresponds to where robberies need to be made leading to a heist of the crown jewels while Kermit tries to escape his captors at the Gulag (led by Tina Fey) and a pair of mismatched cops (Sam Eagle and a Clouseau-esque Ty Burrell) try to solve the crime.  It doesn’t break any new ground in any of the three threads but the live-action actors are giving it everything they have even when they seem a little over their heads in the musical numbers.  Muppet purists might be a little upset that Walter is still front and center in this movie instead of some of the more established characters.  Muppet purists might also find this film too similar to The Great Muppet Caper to really warrant a whole new film.  Are Muppet purists a real thing?  Is this a demographic that moves tickets?  Wouldn’t they have given up when Jim Henson died, Frank Oz retired and Disney bought the company?

There are two lengthy sequences where you can see all of Constantine’s body and he moves around on his legs and Disney needs to promise they won’t try this with any other Muppets until the effect gets much better.  Everyone knows these are puppets and is willing to accept the limitations that come with that.  I don’t know if it was a marionette or a CGI effect or some combination of the two but it looks atrocious.  There’s a classic look to the Muppets and it all looks fine introducing new for the sake of new (you cannot convince me a dance number was essential to the plot) is a dicey proposition even when it doesn’t look like you’ve hastily inserted a frog puppet via green screen.

I’d like to close by briefly scolding whoever had the idea to have Usher do a cameo as an usher.  I groaned over the next two lines.  You almost pissed away all the good will you generated by having Salma Hayek appear exclusively in a red spandex bodysuit.  Almost.

Box Office Democracy: “Divergent”

Divergent is a rather cynical reminder that Hollywood is all about making money and never taking any chances.  Twilight blows up and everyone scours for Young Adult books with supernatural elements and love triangles.  That search eventually leads to The Hunger Games which makes a ton of money leading to another wave of searches for YA books about dystopian futures and that is how we got to Divergent.  If this movie makes enough money expect a round of films where everyone refers to groups of people with needless SAT words.  I think that’s the takeaway here.

In the Divergent world all life exists in a post-apocalyptic Chicago where everyone exists in one of five factions Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite, or Dauntless.  Everyone is tested for their appropriate faction but that is rendered moot as you are allowed to pick your faction when you reach some late teen age that somehow makes it so our main character Beatrice chooses on the same day as her older brother. Beatrice is a Divergent, someone who tests equally well for more than one faction.  This makes her dangerous somehow.  People will try and kill her if they discover this information.

This might seem like a lot of basic exposition and the film struggles mightily with it.  Establishing the previous paragraph and showing Beatrice (later just Tris) training for acceptance into the Dauntless faction takes the overwhelming majority of the film.  The actual story with real consequences and stakes doesn’t start until awfully close to the two-hour mark of the film.  This is a trilogy and I understand the need to lay groundwork for future movies (especially when they come pre-greenlit) but it really feels like they sold this movie out for excessive exposition and one too many training montages.

I also strongly feel that good science fiction needs a clear philosophical bent and I’m just not sure what that is in Divergent.  It might be about accepting people who are different, it might be about the importance of family, or it could be as simple as condemning people who want to throw violent coups.  It could be that this will also be clearer as the series goes on but I knew after one film that The Hunger Games would be about rebelling against an oppressive government.  Divergent just leaves me confused and disinterested.

The bad guy for most of the middle third of the movie, Eric, looks so much like hip-hop artist Macklemore that it’s honestly distracting.  It’s a choice I can’t understand unless this movie is intended as a propaganda piece to turn the young girls of America against Macklemore.  I would fully support that agenda and would be prepared to change this entire review into a rave if that agenda came out.  If anyone at Summit Entertainment or Lionsgate would like to comment on these please send a note through official ComicMix channels.

Mike Gold: Peter Capaldi as the Ultimate Evil

Peter Capaldi Musketeers

This is the second part of a two-part look at the actor who has taken over the lead in Doctor Who. The first part discussed his work in Hotel!, In The Loop, and in the Oscar®-winning Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life. This week, we focus on another upcoming performance.

There must be a law somewhere that mandates an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers every several years. Punch it up on IMDB and your computer will explode. Some of these movies and teevee series are quite good, others, well, suck… although I’m quite partial to the movie version that starred The Ritz Brothers. The latest version, The Musketeers, went up on the BBC earlier this year – it will be on BBC America in June – and it’s as rip-roaring as any. I’ve seen the first five, and I enjoyed them. Political and religious intrigue, swordfights, gunfights, fistfights, buxom femme fatales, handsome leading men… what’s there not to like?

Particularly when there’s a great villain in the mix. Only Ming the Merciless tops Dumas’ Cardinal Richelieu when it comes to great movie villains. And when it comes to great Cardinal Richelieus (Cardinals Richelieu?), Peter Capaldi is among the very best.

That’s saying a lot. Recently, Christoph Waltz played the part and Waltz could read off a bowl of Alpha-Bits and make it seem insidious. Other Richelieus include Stephen Rea, Ben Cross, Tim Curry, Charlton Heston, Vincent Price and, arguably, Michael Palin. That’s quite a club.

Capaldi’s performance is more nuanced than most. He can say more with a slight turn of his head than by eating the scenery, befitting a villain who’s in a British television series and committed to the long haul. Richelieu’s lurks over every scene, even in those episodes where he’s only around for perhaps five minutes. He is as smooth, as powerful, and as controlling as a true top-rank villain should be.

Coincidentally, The Musketeers was developed initially to fill the Doctor Who slot (in part) during the latter’s off-season. The Musketeers’ producers did not know Capaldi got the part as the Doctor until… well, until you did. Now they have to plan for a second season without Peter, and without Richelieu.

I find myself of two minds. The Musketeers is great fun and well-made, shot in the Czech Republic with an internationalish cast (mostly British, but many of the leads are from western Europe) and a costume budget that could feed a small nation. Capaldi is so good here that I’d be perplexed if I was the one who had to decide to leave the show for Doctor Who.

After going though all this material, I can understand why Steven Moffat and friends chose Capaldi for the part in Who. I believe he’s likely to bring back a bit of that crusty edge that most of the earlier Doctors possessed while interjecting his own unique quirkiness, just as the eleven – or is it twelve – performers who previously had the job.

Besides, the Millennials deserve a punk rocker Doctor.

Particularly one who will play the part with a genuine Scottish accent.

Mike Gold: Who Is Peter Capaldi?

When Peter Capaldi was presented to us as the new lead in Doctor Who, a tiny bell dinged in the back of my brainpan. I recalled his appearance on Craig Ferguson’s show; he and Craig were in a couple punk rock bands in the 1980s and had remained very good friends. I thought that was amusing as Ferguson is a big Who fan – he’s had a TARDIS on his teevee desk for many years now.

Capaldi’s casting was praised from hither to yon, and initially I dismissed all that for typical showbiz “sincerity.” But this wave expanded and seemed genuine. Since I’ve had little I could do the past month or two outside of annoying my daughter (and I already was pretty good at that), I decided to track down some of his work and determine his worthiness for myself. (more…)

Box Office Democracy Review: “Veronica Mars”

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I backed the Veronica Mars movie on Kickstarter.  In addition to a myriad of cool perks this gave me, and thousands of other backers, access to regular updates on the process of making this movie, a level of access rather atypical today and totally unheard of a decade ago.  I watched this movie grow from a cool pipe dream to an actual thing that is actually playing in theaters.  This all adds up to a movie that I liked a great deal but am unable to assure myself that this affection is genuine, or is it more like the love a parent feels for their potentially mediocre child?


Box Office Democracy: “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”

I was a big fan of [[[The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show]]] as a child and while I enjoyed almost all of the segments “Peabody’s Improbable History” was a particular favorite.  I don’t know what it is but time travel and know-it-alls have always appealed to me.  It was because of this fandom and the horrific earlier attempts to make films out of the Jay Ward cartoons that made me approach Mr. Peabody & Sherman with particular trepidation.  I’m happy to report that these fears were unfounded and that Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a generally delightful movie.

After perhaps a bit too much exposition (the original cartoon never seemed to need much more than talking dog, pet boy, time machine) Mr. Peabody & Sherman gets right into a trip to Revolutionary France that plays like a more action-packed version of an old-school Peabody short.  It even closes with a pun.  From there the movie packs on a rather stunning amount of plot when all I really wanted was more of the classic formula.

This is the peril of the modern reboot movie; they often lose the fun in favor of a more modern approach to storytelling.  I don’t care about Sherman being bullied for having a father that’s a dog, I don’t care about irrationally angry school counselors that want to involve Child Protective Services, I only care about Mr. Peabody hosting a dinner party because the characters attending are voiced by Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann, and I don’t really need Mr. Peabody to learn a lesson about being a good father.  I just want time travel and jokes and for a good percentage of those jokes to be terrible puns.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask and the movie delivers on this frequently but I left the theater wanting more.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is better than it is bad and I enthusiastically await a sequel (it seems on pace for those kind of numbers assuming the rights aren’t a mess) but there are so many tiny flaws holding this one back from the excellence that was in its grasp.  I’ve seen enough terrible kids movies the last two years that very good is more than enough for me but if I were Rob Minkoff and I had directed this and The Lion King I would feel like this one could have been a bigger deal.

Jen Krueger: Checking in to The Grand Budapest Hotel

Sometimes living in L.A. has great perks, and one of the most recent I’ve enjoyed is the fact that of the four theaters in the U.S. that had The Grand Budapest Hotel on limited release this past weekend, one was just a few blocks from my apartment. I know Wes Anderson isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but as someone who’s been a fan of his films for more than a decade, I find myself increasingly annoyed by the most frequent criticism of his work: he’s making the same movie over and over again. The most common things cited to support this complaint are the look and themes of his films, but I don’t find either of these to be valid arguments. (more…)