Category Archives: Movies

The Conjuring 2

packEd and Lorraine Warren. Now there’s an interesting couple. Professional ghosthunters, demonologists, psychic… These two have stories the likes of which you haven’t heard before. And wether you believe them or think they’re just frauds: the stories they tell are quite captivating. Just look at the score of books they’ve sold and the countless movies their cases have inspired. From The Haunting to The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring and Annabelle to The Haunting in Conneticut. And now The Conjuring 2. Needless to say, I stocked up on diapers and switched on all the lights before watching this one.

And still, some scenes had the hairs on my neck standing up.

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The story picks up with the Warrens after the events in the first film. Nearly one year later, they’re called to England to help a local church with the supposed haunting of the Hodgson family. The family is harassed by an entity claiming they’re in his house, and wants them out asap. All family members are plagued by paranormal activity, with youngest daughter Janet even becoming possessed by the spirit.

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Scary films don’t really often get to me. I’m always able to laugh off the scares, or find some flaw in the effects. Not quite so here. Some scenes had me on the edge of my seat, fully expecting to be startled and still be startled by whatever happened onscreen. There are plenty of scares to be had, and all kinds. Jump-scares, ghosts, possessions, scary nun, demons, etc, etc… And, where so many movies of this genre fail, Conjuring 2 actually delivers: story. We’ve seen countless horror flicks choosing scare over story, leaving clichéd scare- or gorefests with little content behind. Conjuring 2 actually succeeds in scaring and entertaining with a well-written and investing story.

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I liked this one very much. And readers know what happens next: the NxG Shiver Award 2016!

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Yep, the Conjuring 2 gets to take it home this year. Take good care of it, Conjuring 2, you’ll be handing it over to your successor next year.

Jan

Gotham Season 2

boxHow do I review the second season of a show I already reviewed the first season of? Do I repeat myself and again talk at length about the show’s strong points? Do I tell people about the ongoing storyline, thus potentially spoiling everyone? Should I talk about the nice extras, of which there are many included on this boxset?

These are questions I asked myself repeatedly over the course of watching the second season of Gotham.

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So what do I actually do? I could point out that the show’s lack of actual Batman is its strongest point. It still is a treat to see a Gotham pre-Batman. Streets rife with crime. A thriving mobscene. A young Bruce Wayne, still struggling with the loss of his parents, yet somehow coping. Jim Gordon, still a detective, rising among the ranks of Gotham’s finest. It’s all very well written, and fits into existing Batman continuity.

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I can also geek out over the numerous references to Bat-lore in the show. There’s an abundance of easter eggs ranging from the obvious “Oh look, this character’s going to become (insert villain name here) in later life” to the more hidden blink and you’ll miss it shout-outs to the comics.

Perhaps I should point out the actors as well? Maybe say a word or two about how well they’re doing their jobs? There was a time when comic book movies or series had to be acted tongue-in-cheeck (you haven’t seen camp till you’ve seen the 1960’s Batman show), but not here. Here’s a real gritty crime drama, that happens to be set in a comic universe.

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So there you go. I’ve repeated myself. Want a more original review? Go read the review I did for the first season. Everything I said there, still stands for season two. How’s that for original?

-Wait a minute, that isn’t original at all… (reader)
-Quiet you! (editor)

Jan

The Killing Joke

killingcoverThere a few Batman comics as iconic as Alan Moore and Brian Bollands’ Killing Joke. This is the comic where the Joker got a real story.  One that would stick out from the many others that he got, and that somehow always had some of its elements borrowed for those other origin stories. Killing Joke shows the Clown Prince of crime at his most brutal and his most cunning.  It shows us the end of Batgirl and the origin of Oracle.  It shows us Batman laughing out loud.  Needless to say, this is my favourite Batman comic.
Scratch that: it’s my favourite comic. Period.

So when Warner Animation announced its intent to translate the comic into an animated movie, my feelings were mixed.  I was excited at seeing the comic come alive, yet wary of them screwing up a classic.  Turns out, both feelings were right.

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Let’s first get my gripes off my chest.  The one major thing that struck a wrong chord was the quality of the animation. Or lack thereof.  Sure, it was okay, but just okay doesn’t really do Bolland’s art justice.  The comic is a masterpiece. Its translation to the big screen is stuck on mediocre. Watchable and enjoyable, but nowhere near as nice as Bolland.killing3

Then there’s the first part of the movie.  A prologue, as told from Batgirl’s perspective. While it’s a nice little short story on its own, it feels forced and tacked on to the big story, leading away attention from the main theme: the Joker.

 

And boy, what a Joker we get!  Mark Hamill reprises the role beautifully.  As does Kevin Conroy. Batman never sounded as grim opposite Joker’s maniacal cackling.

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So should you get The Killing Joke?  I think you should.  But get the graphic novel first, and watch the movie afterwards.  Because,while not as great as the original, it’s still pretty awesome.

Jan

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

bvscRemember this?

Yeah, me too.  At first I was appaled by Affleck donning the batsuit, but when I saw that picture I thought: “hey, maybe this won’t be so bad after all.”

I eagerly awaited the movie’s release.  I ate up every little tidbit of information that leaked from that set. I read reviews. Bad ones. People calling this a crapfest. People calling for Zack Snyder’s head, or at the very least, his removal from any and all DC licenses, ever. So I went in fearing the worst…

Turns out people on the internet like to make a big deal out of their favourite things.  Who knew? I actually enjoyed the movie. Sure, it took a while to get where it was going, and sure, there are some minor gripes, but a crapfest?  Surely sir, you have watched a different movie than I just did.

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For this one was filled with spectacular fights, cool effects, and general awesomeness. I just watched a moving comic book and by golly, I sat wide-eyed in front of the TVscreen. How cool was Affleck as Batman? That voice modulation, that batmobile, that suit, those moves!  Wow!  And Cavill as Superman?  I was never a huge fan of the redcape, but I might just have to adjust my view of the man of Krypton after this. And all those cameo’s!  Aquaman, Cyborg, the Flash, Wonder Woman…  I love how their snippets set up the stage for the future Justice League movie.

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And let’s not forget Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.  What a performance! Eisenberg plays the part brilliantly.  Never have I seen such a believeable comic book villain. Never over the top, with just the right amount of camp.

I get why people were angry, I really do.  Batman using guns? Luthor with long hair? Snyder dared change their rusted-shut view of their heroes, and he deserved to pay. I get that sentiment. But these are new times, and new times need a new Batman.  Remember the nineties?  Batfans back then were miffed about Burton’s Batman blowing up a clown too. And look were those movies are now: classics.

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After three hours of absolute geek-heaven (I watched the extended cut), I’m already planning to watch the theatrical version next. See what got cut and amp myself up for the Suicide Squad flick.  Times have never been more exciting for Batfans!

 

The Last Ship Season 2

coverSome of you might remember me being ecstatic about the first season of The Last Ship. I was taken by the shows incredible cliffhanger-esque writing and at the same time man-crushing hard on Eric Dane. After the first season, I longed for more.  I wanted the second season to start more than anything else. And then, something weird happened.

Gradually, the excitedness started to wane. Then, fear took over. What if season one was the show’s peak? What if all the best bits and storylines were all used up already? Would season two have enough drama and plot left, or would it be a poor carbon copy of season one? And then, even fear went away, taking along my interest with it.  The Last Ship dropped off my radar. But not for long. Sonar quickly picked up the season 2 boxset’s ping again. I eagerly popped in the blurays and started watching.

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And after bingewatching all thirteen episodes ridiculously fast, I can tell you right now that all of my fears were completely unjustified. Season two knocks it right out of the park! Sure, the crew of the USS Nathan James may have the cure, but this time they’re facing a new enemy. A submarine-toting cult of immunes, who just want to spread the plague so that their master race can take over the world. Suspense, drama and ample plotlines: check!

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All of series one’s cast makes a return, and a few newcomers join the crew. Captain Tom Chandler’s jaw looks more chiseled than ever (swoon!) and the action just explodes off the screen. Who knew naval warfare could be so tense and action-packed?

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I cannot recommend The Last Ship enough. Solid writing, great acting, epic story… This one deserves a place right there next to all the great quality series of today. And I can’t wait for Season three because, you’ve guessed it, season two ends with the mother of all cliffhangers.

Damn you writers, yet again!

Jan

Justice League vs Teen Titans

Justice_League_vs._Teen_TitansHooray! Another Batman animated feature!

Although technically…  It really isn’t.  Justice League vs Teen Titans is (how did you guess) a Justice League story.

Although technically… It really isn’t.  The feature follows the Teen Titans closely, with the Justice League more in a support role.  So it’s most definitely  Teen Titans story.

Although technically… It really isn’t.  This is more of a Robin story.

Since Batman is having a bit of a problem with Damian Wayne knowing his place, the new Robin is sent to the Teen Titans HQ.  There he’ll learn the value of being part of a team, something the bratty little bird doesn’t appreciate yet. Under the leadership of Starfire, he starts training with fellow teens Blue Beetle, Beastboy and Raven.

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Meanwhile, Trigon (DC’s Satan) escapes his prison in hell and is coming for his daughter Raven. Demonic entities posess half of the Justice league and incapacitate Batman, leaving only Cyborg ready to aid the Titans in battling the forces of Hell.

Well…  This is a strange one.  I really liked the art, and the voice acting.  Both are top notch, something we’ve come to expect from Warners Bros animated features. But storywise…  Let’s just say I’m not a fan of superheroes and the supernatural and the occult mixing.

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I mean Superman possessed by a demon? Just like that? He didn’t even put up a fight. And apparently possessed superheroes are defeated even more easily in combat.  And that whole showdown in hell?  Apparently hell only has like twenty demons living in it, all of them patiently waiting in line to attack one by one.

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So yes, it’s safe to say I’m not a big fan of the plot.  I did however like the overall writing.  Characters were fleshed out nicely, there were a lot of winks to DC lore and throwbacks to the Superfriends show of the seventies. Here’s to hoping that there’ll be more Teen Titans animated features in the future. Features with a little less of the occult mixed in.

Jan

The Flash Season 1

coverWhooptidoo.  I got hit by a stomach bug again.

And what better way to spend a couple of days with “the runs” than bingewatching all of season 1 of The Flash!

I know, that was too graphic.  No more poo-related humor below, I swear.

I’m sure all of you are aware of the Flash. The scarlet speedster! The fastest man alive! The red guy with the yellow lightning bolts! The speedy guy on Batman and Superman’s hero-team!  Ever since I watched the first live action movie of the Flash as a child, I’ve been intrigued.  Not so much that I bought the comics, but curious enough to look up his origin, read more about him. I’d see him pop up from time to time when my Batman comics mentioned the Justice League and I took a liking to the character. But still, no comics.

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And now the live action series is here. In it, we see forensic scientist Barry Allen transform into the Flash after a dark matter explosion from Star Labs hits him. With the help of the remaining Star Lab staff, Allen becomes the Flash and fights crime. But he isn’t the only one hit by the dark matter. Others, with more criminal intentions, are also turned into metahumans.flash2

How that for a premise? The Flash is set up simultaneously with his gallery of rogues, and we see most of them during the first season. Yes, even Gorilla Grodd! And that cliffhanger ending…  I can’t wait for the second season!flash3

I simply love the series. Well-written, cool overarcing plot, brilliant acting. I’m all about the Flash now! Time to expand the comic collection…

Jan

Les Revenants Season 2

Rebound-(Les-Revenants)-Seizoen-2-TV-serieWho here, like us, discovered the first season of Les Revenants well after it had been released?  Who, like us, then proceeded to bingewatch, only to discover the ending was not really and ending, but a lead into the second season that hadn’t even started production by then?

Well, people like us, the wait is finally over!  Season 2 is here on bluray and DVD. Hooray!
For those of you who aren’t aware of the series, a small synopsis. (Spoiler alert!)

In a French mountain town, several strange phenomena happen at once. There’s unexplainable power outages, the water level of a lake mysteriously drops, but the weirdest thing is the return of several people that died years ago.  They return home, seemingly unaware of what happened and physically unchanged since their deaths.  The series follows them and their surroundings as they try and cope with what’s happening to them.

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We were thrown right back into the story as soon as we started off season 2.  It picks up 6 months after the events of season 1.  The dead have banded together someplace unknown to the living.  People are awaiting their return, others are more actively looking for them, and the military is taking an interest in the mysterious dropping water level that’s now caused a flood of the town.

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The second season continues is keeping the high level of quality that its predecessor set.  Acting is still top-notch, writing continues to surprise us.  With every episode, we get a step closer to understanding what’s happening.  Yet at the same time each episode also dumps a truckload of new mysteries and questions on us.  The suspense is killing us.  And that feeling of dread and suspense hanging over the entire show!  The excellent photography and the chilling soundtrack by postrockers Mogwai…  If David Lynch was French, he would’ve made this show, we’re sure of it!

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If you’ve never heard of Les Revenants, go right that mistake now.  If you have, continue in doing well for yourself and binge on season 2.

Jan

The Diabolical

diabMadison (Ali Larter) is experiencing strange apparitions at her house.  It seems the place is haunted, but no one can help her.  The paranormal investigators she hired even flee the scene. Luckily her scientist boyfriend may be able to help her and her children in finding out the house’s terrible secret.

I watched this the other night. Curled up underneath a blanket, with a packet of crisps and a soda, ready to be scared witless. My wife even retreated to the kitchen, claiming “the sound alone is scaring me already”.  From the get-go I thought The Diabolical was a winner.  A haunted house and strange hellraiser-esque monsters?  The wife is out, but I’m in!

At least I was, for the first scene and the credit sequence.  Super scary!  The rest of the movie?  Not so much.  There are some jump-scare moments, but they’re so predictable, I didn’t even flinch. All of the superscary monsters are used in the first few scenes as well.  Afterwards, we just get the one monster.  Who isn’t even a monster.  Just some scarred dude in white pajamas.

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We were off to a great start, but about a third in, all of the scary is lost.  Maybe because of that weird plot twist, that turns the movie from horror into scifi. I get that.  I get the plot twist, and I even thought it was quite clever.  But I think it was a giant mistake to concentrate the marketing heavily on the horror aspect.  Just look at that cover art. Screams horror to me. Same thing with the blurb on the box: horror. And that title?  Pure horror, even though it has nothing to do with the story. Nothing at all.

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And then there’s the kids…  Kid actors are always a liability: either they’re good, or they just plain suck. And while these two are quite good, their characters just aren’t believable. Their house is haunted, yet they act like they don’t mind one bit. Honestly, it’s as if they’re under the impression that “haunted” means “there’s some ants in the kitchen cupboards”.  They look that worried.

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So good movie?  I’d go with so-so. Watch this if you’re not ready for superscary, or if you just want to ogle Ali Larter.

Jan

Lego Justice League: Cosmic Clash

lego_dc_superheroes_cosmic_clash_keyartSomehow I knew this was going to happen.  Last review I said “Batman animated features seem to crop up faster than I can review them” and Boom!

New Batman animated feature lands on my desk.

Although, technically, this isn’t a Batman-feature.  It’s the Justice League: Cosmic Clash!

When Brainiac decides to add Earth to his mint collection of planets, the Justice League steps up.  Together, they thwart Brainiac’s plan.  They deranged robot isn’t about to give up that easily though, and zaps half of the Justice League back in time.  It’s up to remaining members Flash and Batman to go back in time and save their friends.

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I’ve reviewed Lego animated features before.  I’ve always given them thumbs up. I marveled at the humor, praised the voice-actors and was really into the story.  Things are no different with this one.  I can easily check the boxes next to humor, animation, voiceacting and story. Lego once again proves that it’s a quality brand, not just for its toys, but in everything it partakes in.

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The one thing that puzzled me most this time around is how they keep it fresh.  Because, sure, it was entertaining and well-written, but deep down it’s just the umpteenth Lego movie, that relies heavily on the same old staples.  Why am I not yet bored by this?

The answer is very simple.  It’s because at heart, I’m still a kid.  A small eight year old, that’s easily impressed by cool stuff.  And animated Lego definitely falls into the cool stuff category, as does the Justice League.

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So yes, I continue to like the Lego movies. I hope Lego keeps on producing them and by golly, I now have a craving for opening a fresh box of mint Lego. Just so I can experience the joy of building something and hear that distinct plastic clatter.

Jan