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Movies Reviews

Fantastic Planet (1973) Review

Fantastic Planet. Directed by Rene Laloux. Released in 1973

The Spring of Sci-Fi #15

Fantastic Planet, directed by Renė Laloux and released in 1973, is an experimental and surreal animated science fiction film. The film’s visuals are unique and trippy; they are reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python animation and the surreal artwork of Salvador Dali. The film is set on the psychedelic planet of Ygam and is inhabited by bizarre landscapes and creatures. The film primarily focuses on the relationship between the Draags, a giant blue dominant species of Ygam, and the Oms. The Om’s are much smaller and appear more humanlike than the gigantic and blue Draag’s. The film explores multiple themes of free will, fascism, environmentalism, genocide, and animal rights.

I feel like when people think of animation they mostly think of children’s cartoons, Disney films, and anime. One thing that Fantastic Planet shows audiences is how far you could take the medium of animation. Renė Laloux and his animation team create a wondrous and sometimes horrifying world. They stretch the lengths of science fiction and world-building to astoundingly surreal heights. This film could only work as animation. Animation allows their imaginations to roam free, and they are only limited by what they can create and draw. The story is unique, exploring multiple philosophical and existential themes in much more mature ways than audiences typically see in traditional animation. The movie begins with a female Om being teased and harassed by a giant Draag. After the woman is killed a Draag named Tiwa takes in the woman’s infant and names it Terr. Terr is treated well by Tiwa, and we see through Tiwa and Terr’s interactions that the Om’s age much slower than the gigantic Draag’s. Tiwa is instructed in the Draag’s culture and language through a metal band that wraps around her head and sends her lessons through electronic signals. Terr picks up on the signal that Tiwa receives and slowly begins to learn about the Draag’s language and culture. Terr escapes and brings the device with him to a colony of Oms. They begin learning and eventually decide they want to rebel against the Draag’s who seek to either enslave them as pets or exterminate them with toxic gas. The Draag’s also spend most of their time meditating–although I don’t want to spoil what their meditation is accomplishing.

A glimpse at the wonderfully bizarre world of Fantastic Planet

The movie starts slow, but it is important to introduce the audience to the strange world slowly and methodically. By slowly introducing us to the species, politics, and philosophies we can connect much more with what is happening. People typically think of arthouse films as being devoid of emotion but Fantastic Planet balances the sometimes cold tone that is present in some arthouse films with a world that is enchanting and inviting. What appears to be a basic story about rebellion and oppression is much deeper than it originally appears, and that is aided by Laloux’s methodical approach to the story. Many sci-fi stories deal with oppressive governments and rebellion, but Fantastic Planet explores complex themes through a unique lens using surreal animation to help guide and mask its themes. The movie looks like a stoner-friendly movie and is even accompanied by an acid jazz soundtrack–and it kicks ass–but I think that viewing it as only a psychedelic piece of art undermines the existential story that is hidden underneath.

Fantastic Planet is a wonderfully unique animated film that seeks to use its animation to explore elaborate philosophical ideas about humanity and oppression. The film is accompanied by an amazing acid jazz soundtrack that enhances the incredible visuals and would be interesting to listen to on its own. The film has plenty of bizarre and strange creatures that inhabit the background of the world, and I think that trying to notice all the details helps merit multiple viewings. Check this out if you like trippy animation, elaborate world-building, and complex themes.

Rating 4/5

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Movies Reviews

Retro Sci-Fi Review: Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase (2001)

Directed by Jim Stenstrum. Written by Mark Turosz.

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #2

I remember my friends talking about this movie while I was growing up. This film released twenty years ago and it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase is an animated movie that’s a part of what I call the Scooby-Doo animated movie universe. There are over thirty films that are animated starring Scooby and the gang. An animated universe that spans from the 1980’s to today in the 2020’s. Impressive. Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase stars Frank Welker as Fred, B.J. Ward as Velma, Scott Innes as Shaggy & Scooby, and Grey DeLisle as Daphne.

In this movie, Scooby and the gang get transported into a video game where they have to stop the Phantom Virus and defeat all levels of the game in order to escape. The gang is transported into the game via a laser that left me intrigued. The laser can make objects into reality and absorb objects into virtual reality. This is an idea that Warner Brothers should’ve used again in a sequel. The concept is fantastic. A new villain could steal it to take care of their nefarious plans.

Speaking of villains, it’s not normally hard to figure out who the baddie is in a Scooby Doo show or movie. The plot gives clear clues as to who the villain is in different levels of the video game. The mystery of who the villain is would’ve been better if they left the clues out. The film introduces several potential people who could be the villain. If the movie didn’t introduce the clues, the eventual villain reveal at the end would have had a bigger payoff. The clues are still fun though. It does reveal the villain early in the movie, but that’s if you’re paying attention closely.

The overall plot is fun and creative. Yes, it’s filled with the classic antics of the show, but it does introduce new ways for the gang to solve mysteries. The real gang working with their cyberspace counterparts is a blast to watch. Also, we get to see the gang in various environments that we haven’t seen before. The gang goes to the Roman Coliseum and a prehistoric jungle with dinosaurs. It’s always entertaining to see the gang get away from their hometown on occasion. The film’s animation holds up well for a twenty-year-old movie. Everything operates smoothly with the gang having a fresh and classic look all at once.

In the end, Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase is an exciting movie with a classic formula. The film puts the gang in a new danger, while making sure that it stays light in spirit. A great film to watch to unwind for the day. Why did Shaggy put whipped cream on that hot dog though?

Overall rating: 3.5/5.

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Batman DCAU Movies

Review of Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is a classic graphic novel written by Brian Augustyn and drawn by Mike Mignola. The novel focuses on Batman who is trying to stop the murder spree of Jack the Ripper in Victorian-era Gotham City. Warner Brothers Animation and DC Comics adapted this entertaining story in 2018 as an animated movie. Bruce Greenwood returns as Batman with Sam Liu handling the directing duties yet again for another DC animated film. The final result is a boring, loose adaptation that does not feature any thrills like the original novel.

Jack the Ripper is wreaking havoc in the streets of Gotham. The film begins with the Ripper carving up a prostitute in a dark alley who happens to be Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy is not included in the graphic novel. This appearance of her is a wasted cameo that is not needed. Batman is on the Ripper’s trail, but he arrives too late to save Ivy. Batman is inexperienced in the movie as it is easy to tell that Bruce has not been a vigilante for long.

Batman versus the Ripper.

In the first act, the film introduces several characters into the movie that were not in the graphic novel. Poison Ivy, Doctor Hugo Strange, the three Robins, Selina Kyle, and Harvey Bullock all make appearances. Characters from the graphic novel that are included in the movie are Bruce Wayne/Batman, Jim Gordon, and Alfred. The movie is missing one significant character that is important to the plot of the novel. The character is Jacob Packer who turned out to be the Ripper in the comic.

Selina.

Selina Kyle and Jim Gordon are the intriguing characters with the best story arcs. Kyle is a wealthy businesswoman who runs a popular dance show in Gotham. The Ripper tries to make her a victim in the film. She shows that she is fierce and unafraid of the Ripper’s deadly game. In their fight scene, Kyle is a fantastic fighter which audiences know is not a surprise. However, the surprise is that the Ripper is an expert hand-to-hand combatant. The surprise does give away who the villain is if viewers are paying attention. Gordon is a mysterious inspector for the Gotham police who seems to be hiding something. Gordon is hellbent on catching the Ripper. The film’s version of Gordon is a man who is untrustworthy. Gordon plays a pivotal role in the Ripper reveal scene that is nowhere near as satisfying as the graphic novel.

The adaptation is decent. It is not as bad as the adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke. The character details for Gordon and Kyle are what keeps this movie somewhat entertaining. This movie is the 26th film that I have added to my movies for pluviophiles list on Letterboxd. Final rating: 2.5/5.

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Batman DCAU Movies

Review: Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)

As I continue my quest watching the DC Comics’ animated movies, I stumbled across one of the films that may be the worst entry in the DC universe. Batman and Harley Quinn is an awkward film that I’m surprised got greenlit to be made. Bruce Timm, one of the showrunners on the amazing Batman: The Animated Series, wrote the story to this movie and produced it. I’m shocked at how this movie turned out. It’s a bland attempt at comedy that over sexualizes Harley Quinn.

The movie is animated similarly to the animated series. It’s similar via the backgrounds that the movie uses. In the animated series, the night sky would sometimes be colored brown or red. Batman and Harley Quinn features a consistent red sky throughout the movie. The design of the buildings and the structures in this film draw inspiration from the animated series. The structures show how huge Gotham is while taking in a gothic architectural design. As for the characters, they’re not in the same vein. The characters are drawn in the ways of modern day Warner Brothers animation. Some of the background characters had the same animation style as Scooby Doo cartoons. None of it fit together. It didn’t look right.

The characters in this movie are a mess. Batman is out of character in some scenes such as one scene where he laughs at a bad fart gag with Harley Quinn. Harley Quinn is over sexualized as there’s a camera shot of her in her underwear with the camera zoomed in on her butt. That’s not the worst part. Harley Quinn and Nightwing have an awkward romantic scene together where Nightwing is tied up on Harley’s bed. The film plays it off as a comedic gag. It comes off as gross and unfunny.

There’s nothing exhilarating about the plot. Batman and Robin team up with Harley Quinn to stop Poison Ivy and Floronic Man from turning the earth into a forest. The filmmakers had the chance to turn this into a serious movie about eco-terrorism. Nope. The movie tries to be a comedy with awkward jokes that feel aged. The only interesting beat in the film is that Harley is trying to live a normal life in the first act of the movie. That’s an interesting concept to build upon.

I give this movie a 1 out of 5. Bruce Timm can do better.

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DCAU Movies

DC Showcase- Jonah Hex

DC Comics and Warner Brothers Animation have released several DC animated movies. With a few of the movies, DC will throw in an animated short with the movie as an extra feature. I’m going to talk about the short that came with Batman: Under The Red Hood. The short features wild west gunslinger Jonah Hex. Thomas Jane stars as the facially scarred cowboy.

The plot begins with a mysterious drifter coming to a western town. He enters the bar, demands a drink, and goes upstairs with one of the prostitutes. The drifter is played by Michael Rooker, who starred as Yondu in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. His voice…just doesn’t fit a cowboy character. Also, this short isn’t worth his time as the prostitute, Madame Lorraine, kills Rooker’s drifter character off immediately. The scene is to establish that Lorraine is a sneaky villain, who happens to be attractive. She’s a killer using her saloon to hide her true intentions. Lorraine is played by Linda Hamilton, who people may know from The Terminator franchise.

Lorraine with the drifter.

In the next scene, Jonah Hex rides into the same town as now it has become daytime. Hex strolls up to the bar where Lorraine operates. A punk kid shows up telling Hex that he could take Hex out in a duel. Hex lays the punk out by swinging the bottom of his rifle at him. Thomas Jane delivers his first lines here, which are brief. His voice is deep, going for a gravelly tone. It sounds similar to his voice when he played Frank Castle in The Punisher.

Hex.

After getting rid of the punk, Hex walks into the bar with everyone’s eyes on him. He tells the bartender that he’s looking for a man named Red. Red happens to be the name of the drifter that Lorraine killed the night before. Hex pays a prostitute who tells him all about Lorraine, then the prostitute leaves town. Hex buys everyone in the bar a round, which catches the attention of Lorraine. Lorraine takes Hex upstairs to kill him, but it doesn’t work. Hex fights off her two henchmen along with her. After getting rid of the henchmen, Hex demands Lorraine to take him to Red’s dead body so he can claim the bounty. Lorraine takes him to a huge hole in the ground where she dumps her victims. Hex and Lorraine get to the bottom of the hole via ropes. Hex gets the dead body, escaping with a rope. He withdraws the other rope and abandons Lorraine in the dark hole to die.

This short is straightforward. It’s a simple, predictable plot. I did enjoy Lorraine as the antagonist. There isn’t enough screen time for her to truly flex her muscles as a villain. She seems like she could be formidable. I digged the animation along with the dark colors of the film. It gives the movie a gothic, eerie tone. I recommend hardcore DC fans to watch it.

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Uncategorized

Jalapeno Black Reviews Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) (Part 2)

Occasionally, I get around to finishing things. I started this review September of last year. Today would be a good day to finish it. As I stated in the first part of my review, Terry finds out the horrible truth as to what happened to former Robin (Tim Drake). He was tortured by the Joker, then he kills the Joker after Joker attempts to kill Batman. After the Joker’s death, Tim Drake is able to regain his sanity thanks to Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Tim Drake never picks up the mantle of Robin ever again as Batman no longer wants to have a young sidekick after the events of that night. Tim goes on to become an expert in communications.

Image of Tim Drake as Joker Jr.

Terry McGinnis (Batman Beyond) decides to investigate into who is the Joker. Terry thinks that it could be Tim or that it could be Jordan Price. Jordan Price is the company manager for Wayne Enterprises. McGinnis shows his growth as a detective in this movie as he is able to discover that Price has been supplying the Jokerz gang with money and weapons. McGinnis has to save Price from the Jokerz gang as they have arrived at Price’s yacht to terminate him. McGinnis saves Price then turns him over to the police.

Batman makes a shocking discovery.

McGinnis tracks down the hideout of the Jokerz gang. He fights off the gang members, then finds Tim Drake working inside. Tim is working on a device that can control satellites such as a government defense satellite. McGinnis, as Batman, confronts Drake who relives that fateful day with the Joker. They have a struggle, then Drake transforms into the Joker. Yes, that’s right. Drake turns into him. Years ago, on that fateful night, Joker planted a microchip onto Drake that would let Joker take control of Drake’s body so Joker could continue to live on. The concept is far-fetched, but it makes sense after Joker’s explanation. The microchip also puts the Joker’s DNA inside of Tim as it turns Tim into Joker. Like I said far-fetched, but Batman Beyond is a science-fiction superhero cartoon. McGinnis is able to defeat Joker. After he defeats Joker, he turns Joker back into Tim Drake. Bruce visits Tim in the hospital to make amends. McGinnis vows to continue the Batman legacy.

Let me gather my final thoughts for this movie. I have to say that it’s one of the most entertaining Batman animated films. It was a shock to see Tim Drake transform into Joker. The mystery that is constructed until that discovery climax isn’t as entertaining. The filmmakers leave plenty of points to show that Drake is Joker. The movie shows Terry’s growth as Batman as an investigator as well as an crime-fighter. He pieces together that Drake is Joker. He completely dismantles the Jokerz Gang. Neo-Gotham is in good hands. This movie is worth watching for superhero fans.