Xmas Nostalgia: A GARFIELD CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

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When it comes to Christmas animated specials, the first thing that usually pops into the minds of everyone who grew up in the later part of the 20th Century would be that one featuring the Peanuts gang. For me…yeah, sometimes that. But, coming in at a very, very close second would be A Garfield Christmas Special.

Being a dyed-in-the-wool Garfield fan since I was but 9 years of age, A Garfield Christmas was the seventh animated special featuring the fat feline. This was originally broadcast on December 21st, 1987, which placed me at 13-years-of-age at the time. You know, in case you cared about things like that.

Here, Garfield goes along with Odie to Jon’s family farm to celebrate Christmas. Family fun wackiness ensues.

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UNCLE NECRO WATCHES: The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature

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UNCLE NECRO WATCHES

nut job 2

I just took in a showing of The Nut Job 2 with my nephews during a Fun Day type weekend I had with them (they’re growing up so fast…cue “Cats In The Cradle”), and instead of writing out a review of the movie (as I normally do), I thought I’d record my thoughts on it during my drive back to the Haunted Victorian after dropping them off. Here’s the result, for better or for worse:

Does this mean more Uncle NecRo Watches… type mini podcasts like this in the future? Eh, depends on my mood, I guess…or how much of a response these give. I mean, who doesn’t have movie review vlogs and podcasts and such. Cheers, all.
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Movie Review: MINIONS

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Minions_posterUniversal Pictures
2015
PG

“Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. The pigs encountered a big, bad wolf, who hired the three pigs to come work for her. One day, the pigs did something very stupid, so the wolf huffed, and puffed and she BLEW THEM OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH! The end.”

Starting as single-celled yellow organisms, Minions evolve through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters. Continuously unsuccessful at keeping these masters – from T. Rex to Napoleon – the Minions find themselves without someone to serve and fall into a deep depression. But one Minion named Kevin has a plan, and he – alongside teen-age rebel Stuart and lovable little Bob – ventures out into the world to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow. The trio embarks upon a thrilling journey that ultimately leads them to their next potential master, Scarlet Overkill, the world’s first supervillainess ever. They travel from frigid Antarctica to 1960s New York City, ending in modern London, where they must face their biggest challenge to date: saving all of Minionkind…from annihilation.

The Minions. Ever since they made their first appearance in the movie Despicable Me, they’ve been the darlings of what appears to be a franchise. Toys, nick-knacks, t-shirts, unavoidable memes where they slap on some pithy bumper-sticker saying next to a picture of one of these yellow freaks for whatever reason. And while I admit they work well as the support cast to Gru’s misadventures, I never really thought they could actually handle their own movie.

Well, somebody obviously disagreed, probably the studio execs who looked at these little characters and saw dollar signs dressed in denim coveralls. And thus, we have a prequel/spin-off movie starring these merchandise fodder. Is “fodder” the plural as well as the singular? I’m too lazy to look it up.

The story is pretty straight-forward: We follow the Minions as they evolve over time, from single-celled organisms to their present form, always with a single-minded goal of finding and serving the biggest, baddest baddie out there. Usually with hilariously disastrous results. This eventually results in a self-exile in Antarctica, where they enjoyed their solitude, until the usual melancholy that comes as a result of not fulfilling your potential sets in. So, three of the clan decide to venture forth unto the land of humans, in search of the ultimate villan to serve as their master. They land in New York City, where it’s the year 1968, and through a series of wacky coincidences, they wind up in Florida to attend Villain-Con, and manage to become the henchmen for female supervillain Scarlet Overkill. Their first official mission: steal St. Edward’s Crown from Queen Elizabeth II. Only, they accidentally do a good job in doing it, managing to de-throne the Queen and being placed as rulers of the United Kingdom, which makes Scarlet all sorts of jeally, throw a hissy-fit, and vow to destroy all of the minions. Wackiness ensues.

While the two Despicable Me films are good family films, Minions seems to be more of a kids’ film. The difference being that the entire family, both kids and adults, would find Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 entertaining, Minions is aimed at entertaining the kids. Sure, there’s a few references that got a chuckle, but for the most part that thing that made the Despicable Me films work on that level wasn’t here. As a villain, Scarlet Overkill didn’t do much to inspire like Gru did. She was kind of boring, really. A one-note character. Her husband was more interesting, and he was more of a lackey than the Minions were.

Overall, Minions was a decent way to kill time on the Saturday morning I watched this. Discount ticket prices, and all. The writing was good, there were some rather amusing bits in there, and I didn’t feel like my intelligence was being insulted. But I still get the feeling that Minions was a direct-to-video release that somehow made it to the theaters. Good for a matinée showing, I would think, if you have kids. Otherwise, wait for the rental if you don’t. You’ll seem less creepy that way.

Movie Review: BATMAN: Assault On Arkham

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batman assault on arkhamWarner Home Video
2014
PG-13

“Anyone who throws boomerangs has got some real issues letting go.”

Welcome to Gotham City’s heart of darkness. At the center of the shadows rises Arkham Asylum, a festering depository of the vile, the dangerous and the delirious, with an ever-growing population courtesy of the Dark Knight. But when Batman foils the Riddler’s latest caper and the crucial piece of evidence needs to be secretly recovered from Arkham, the solution comes from an unexpected source: a covert government strike team hand assembled from Gotham City’s underworld. The assassin Deadshot leads the Suicide Squad: Harley Quinn, Killer Frost, Captain Boomerang, King Shark and Black Spider, a roster of rogues who know Arkham Asylum and its residents all too well. Get ready for an all-out assault as Batman faces a fearless legion of criminals with nothing to lose. Some will live, some will die and some just want revenge. It’s an unadulterated adventure through the criminal mind in the latest DC Universe animated movie.­

This year’s offerings of direct-to-video DC animated movies have, admittedly, been not as up to par with the majority of the other original animated movies released since 2007’s Superman/Doomsday. I’m still working on the full reviews of both Justice League: War and Son Of Batman, but for purpose of comparison, let’s just say there’s something to be desired. Which is why I sighed rather heavily with the thought of watching this movie. I held off, until I watched uber-fanboy reviewer E-Rod (aka the Blockbuster Buster) give this video a “10” on his Badassatude Meter, which then intrigued me enough to give it a watch myself.

Unlike the other two afore-mentioned videos, Batman: Assault On Arkham is based on the Arkham Asylum video games, rather than specific comic book story lines. Kind of a prequel, if Wikipedia is to be trusted. Here, Batman takes a back seat to the Suicide Squad, which is kind of a government black ops made up of super-villains to do high-risk missions in exchange for commuted prison sentences, and headed up by one Dr. Amanda Waller. Let’s just say Dr. Waller is the thing that the scary things are scared of. You don’t want to mess with her. She send in a team consisting of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Shark King, Black Spider, Captain Boomerang, and Killer Frost (KGBeast deciding not to participate) into Arkham to retrieve an item hidden in The Riddler’s cane. Of course, when Dr. Waller is involved, there’s more to it than just what’s on the surface, so when they all discover the reason why the Riddler is being targeted to be “taken care of”, all bets are off. Then the Joker decides to break out of his cell and join the fun.

As animated DC movies go, Batman: Assault On Arkham was satisfying. It had an action-packed story, the voice acting was top-notch (Troy Baker seemed to be channeling Mark Hamill in his depiction of the Joker, instead of trying to do a bad imitation, which worked out beautifully), the animation was…tolerable, and the characterization and direction made for some good depth for a group that I really had no experience with at all, outside of maybe a couple of episodes of Justice League Unlimited. And here, the PG-13 rating is well-earned, in case you were thinking this is just a cartoon for your young kids to watch.

Overall, while I’m not a fan of the type of animation style they’ve been using in the recent animated movies, Batman: Assault On Arkham is easily the best of the four that were released in 2014. There’s one more that I haven’t watched from that bunch yet, but so far, I would recommend a viewing of Batman: Assault On Arkham some night.

Movie Review: ULTIMATE AVENGERS

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Movie Review: ULTIMATE AVENGERSMarvel Studios
2005
PG-13

“Are you really Russian, or are you just trying to make an impression?”

In 1945, in one of the last battles against the Nazis, Super Soldier Steve Rogers, a. k. a. Captain America, stumbles upon an alien plot to help the Nazis build a nuclear warhead to take out the United States. The Captain manages to stop the bomb and destroy it, but at the cost of being hurtled into the Atlantic Ocean and put into suspended animation within an underwater glacier. Flash forward 60 years, and the top-secret Government agency S. H. I. E. L. D., led by General Nick Fury, has found the body of Steve Rogers, and retrieves him in order to duplicate the lost Super Soldier serum to build a new army of super soldiers to take on the lingering alien threat. Only, the Captain is still alive, and the government is getting impatient for results. Now, Steve Rogers finds himself a man out of time, and leading a group of cocky, hot headed modern heroes against the extraterrestrial threat. Only thing is, the aliens aren’t the biggest threat to the Avengers…

As a comic book geek, I do believe that we’re experiencing a neo-Renaissance of sorts with movies and cartoons based on comic book properties. The release of this direct-to-video animated movie based on the first storyline in the uber-popular (and kick arse, I might add) Ultimates comic is, in my not-so-humble opinion, quite spectacular. It’s not perfect, mind you, but realize what it could have been if it was made in, say, the 80s…or even the 90s. I shudder to think…

The animation is top-notch, with a style like that of the late lamented X-Men: Evolution cartoon. There are some noticeable instances where the CGI and traditional animation don’t mix too well, mostly with the scenes involving S. H. I. E. L. D.’s flying machines. Otherwise, it’s pretty smooth and tight. Story-wise, it sticks pretty close to the source material, albeit a bit toned down (anyone who’s read the Ultimates know what I’m talking about…somehow I don’t think Captain America kicking Bruce Banner in the nuts would’ve played out too well). Still, it doesn’t skimp on the explosive action, or the rather deep characterization with the Marvel icons. Steve Rogers trying to adjust to the future present he’s stuck in with almost all ties to his past gone is handled really well. Also, Bruce Banner as the obsessive yet brilliant scientist trying to find a way to control his Hulk alter-ego is nicely done. And call me crazy, heretical, or whatnow, but I personally prefer the Ultimate version of Nick Fury rather than the regular continuity version. The obvious Samuel L. Jackson design works for him. Seriously…

Sadly, this movie’s only 73 minutes long. Not really a full-length movie, but still very satisfying. Well done. I’d like to see more Marvel-based DTV movies like this in the future, perhaps with more obscure characters. Maybe an animated miniseries based on the Alex Ross / Mark Waid opus Marvels. In the extras, for all you George Perez freaks out there, there’s an interesting 25-minute documentary entitled “Avengers Assemble!”, which features interviews with Perez and a couple of others involved with the Avengers comic in various incarnations. In any case, check this nifty gem out…

Movie Review: SHREK 2

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Movie Review: SHREK 2DreamWorks SKG
2004
PG

“Oh, Shrek. Don’t worry. Things just seem bad because it’s dark and rainy and Fiona’s father hired a sleazy hitman to whack you.”

Otherwise known as The Most Expensive Disappointment I Had This Week. Yeesh. I was getting reports that this sequel was actually better than the first one. I’m saying it’s not. Why, you may (or may not) ask yourself? Simple. This one, the romance quotient was waaaaaaaaaay too high for my liking. Call me old-fashioned, but any romantic story is guaranteed to give me gas. And pancreatic shock. And a strong urge to kill. You get the idea.

Mind you, the movie did have its high points: the not-so-subtle jabs at Disney’s expense, a believable evil Fairy Godmother, more than a handful of funny, and quite a few laugh-out-loud gags. The Puss In Boots character was the greatest. Not to mention the animation quality was top-notch. However…it was that damn romantic edge that ruined the entire thing for me. More sugar-coated sappiness than a maple tree in Candyland. And, the plot just seemed to draaaaaaaaaaag on at too many places.

That’s my two cents. Wait for the rental.

Movie Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE: Starcrossed

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justice league starcrossedWarner Bros. Animation
2004
NR

The Justice League is on patrol in Washington, D. C. while the international peace summit takes place. Suddenly, the Capitol is under attack by an alien spaceship, and the combined forces of Superman, Batman, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and Wonder Woman can’t stop it…until a whole fleet of spaceships swoop down and destroys the menace. A fleet that turns out to be Thanagarian, from Hawkgirl’s home planet. And the leader of the winged warriors happens to be Hawkgirl’s old fiancé. Which kind of weirds out Green Lantern, as he’s been having a little somethin’ somethin’ with Hawkgirl since about the middle of Second Season or so. But, anyway, referring back to Plot A: Seems there’s a warlike alien race headed toward Earth with notions of worldwide conquest on their noggins, and the Thanagarians have arrived to help the citizens of Earth defend against the horde. Only Batman thinks it’s too much of a coincidence that the Thanagarians arrived just as the one ship attacked. Soon, the true purpose of the Thanagarian presence is made known, which would mean the utter annihilation of our planet. With Hawkgirl’s allegiance now apparently with the Thanagarians (how many times can I say that?), the Justice League must try to stop their plans…otherwise, well…boom…

Starcrossed The Movie is technically the three-part series finale of the Cartoon Network series (it changed over to Justice League Unlimited afterwards). Clocking in at 68 minutes on DVD, it seems a bit short for a movie, but trust me when I say, it jams a lot of action in little over an hour. Like the other Bruce Timm-created cartoons utilizing the popular DC characters (Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond, etc.), Justice League manages to recreate the wonder of the superhero comics while not insulting the collective intelligence of those watching it. Meaning, this Justice League ain’t your daddy’s Superfriends. There’s the action, natch, but the script explores the complexities of the relationships of the characters- Hawkgirl’s feelings for Green Lantern and friends in the League versus her duty to her people, and the betrayal felt by the League. This made these superheroes more than just comic book characters…you feel something beyond just a quick ‘toon fix. The ending, I must admit, brought a tear to my eye, something that hasn’t happened since the end of Iron Giant, and Snoopy Come Home before that. Bite me.

Final analysis: Starcrossed The Movie is yet another example in the high-quality cartoons that Bruce Timm and co. have been putting out- simple yet engaging animation, fantastic voice actors, and a script that doesn’t dumb it down. Quality stuff…

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